Your Money: Don't moan, just change your bank

Perhaps I should have known better, but I was still astonished by the response to the bumper profits reported last week by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The evening news on Thursday was dominated by angry RBS customers, upset at the bank's massive profits. Those who were interviewed said they felt hard done by and thought they were being taken advantage of.

Politicians have also jumped on the bandwagon, calling for a crackdown on the excessive earnings of the major banks. For RBS is not alone: Barclays has already reported big profits and Lloyds TSB and HSBC are likely to follow suit in the next couple of weeks.

But hang on a minute. Most RBS customers have only themselves to blame. If they're upset, why don't they do something about it? After all, there is nothing forcing them to stay with RBS, and if their bank is making so much profit out of them, clearly they aren't getting competitive deals.

A glance at "best buy" tables is enough to confirm that the best financial products are not offered by high-street banks. Those banks that enjoy the biggest profits simply don't provide the sort of attractive deals that would eat into these profits. So why stick around when you could do better elsewhere?

Is it RBS's job to make sure that customers get the best rates? Of course not: its first duty is to its shareholders. The bank's aim is to produce profits for them, which is exactly what it is doing. In fact, RBS signalled last week that if it doesn't make any big acquisitions this year, it will hand back cash to shareholders.

While investors will end up quids in, I don't have much sympathy for RBS customers who feel they're being short-changed. All this episode demonstrates is how many people fail to take responsibility for their own finances. They can't be bothered to shop around for the best deals, yet are put out when they don't get them. They are too lazy to switch bank accounts, electricity suppliers or their mortgage, and then complain they are being cheated out of good savings rates, low charges and cheap borrowing.

And they don't see why they need to save for their own retirement, even though they won't be able to rely on the state for a comfortable pension.

If you are one of the many people who have sometimes found themselves howling at the moon over their bank account, credit card provider or mortgage lender, then do something about it. It's never been easier to switch deals, and one can't complain about lack of choice.

If you can't be bothered to look for the best financial products, you've only yourself to blame.

m.bien@independent.co.uk

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