Direct banking in the firing line

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The Independent Online

Not everyone is happy with NatWest's new Direct Business Banking service, which was launched in July and offers 250,000 of the bank's smaller business customers a cheaper alternative to the more conventional branch-based business accounts. Customers who switch to direct banking can still use their branch for cashing cheques and paying in credits but they can also transact business over the phone or on the Internet, from 8am to 10pm Monday to Friday.

Not everyone is happy with NatWest's new Direct Business Banking service, which was launched in July and offers 250,000 of the bank's smaller business customers a cheaper alternative to the more conventional branch-based business accounts. Customers who switch to direct banking can still use their branch for cashing cheques and paying in credits but they can also transact business over the phone or on the Internet, from 8am to 10pm Monday to Friday.

Direct-banking customers will also be spared account maintenance fees which could save them up to £69 a year. They will, however, no longer have a business manager to deal with their problems face-to-face. Instead, they will have access to a team of advisers over the phone.

Changing is entirely optional but not everyone, it seems, is happy with the way it has been handled. One reader rang the contact number throughout the day but failed to get through and met an equally blank response when seeking clarification from the branch.

As he was unaware that he actually had a business manager to provide a personal service he is not sure whether he is being offered more for less or not.

NatWest is suitably contrite and explains that the same contact number for further information was also being used by students asking about the bank's services, so the line might have been seasonally busy. The service, they say, puts NatWest ahead of the other three big clearing banks, none of whom yet offer business banking direct, although the RBS, the Co-op and Abbey National do.

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