Angry customers are switching bank accounts in their droves, following the IT problems at the RBS group and the scandal surrounding Barclays’ interest rate manipulation. The Co-operative Bank, one of the few unsullied by the latest scandal, has seen a 25% increase in online applications week on week.
A poll on the Guardian Money website that started on Friday is asking readers whether they are fed up enough with their bank to switch accounts. By the time of going to press it had a “yes” response from 77% of the nearly 2,000 who had voted.
Who can blame them? Many at Natwest, RBS and Ulster Bank are suffering another weekend without money, as the problems at the group mean customers are still without access to their bank accounts. Barclays, meanwhile, has been caught up in the double scandal of Libor manipulation and the mis-selling of financial products to small businesses.
Comments on the internet and elsewhere suggest customers of the high street banks are increasingly looking for alternatives that focus on customer service and face-to-face banking.
“Ethics and behaviour are important but have to visit branch 3/4 times a week so ultimately it’s face to face service that’s important,” said Natalie on Twitter.
Many RBS Group customers are likely to be waiting for their problems to be sorted out or to receive compensation before changing accounts, while Barclays customers may want to see which other banks are caught up in the Libor issue before deciding where to switch.
But others are already investigating their options: on Friday the product comparison website Moneynet reported that traffic to its current account pages has increased by 12% in the past week compared to the rest of 2012.
Nationwide building society which, like the Co-op, has not been dragged into the Libor fixing review, has also begun to benefit. It said: “We are already seeing an increase in the numbers of people asking to move to Nationwide from other banks. After recent events we expect those numbers will increase.”
Many readers have expressed their intention to move to the Co-op bank, ethical bank Triodos or a building society, while others have started to take notice of other less obvious competitors, including peer-to-peer lenders and credit unions.
Handelsbanken, a Swedish bank, has more than doubled its branches across the country to 129 since the start of the banking crisis in 2008. It takes a strong community based approach: branches only deal with individuals and businesses whose premises lie close to the bank.
Each branch manager makes his or her own decisions about marketing, lending and even pricing of the branch’s products. Management is not rewarded with bonuses: instead, all staff benefit from an equal profit share scheme that pays them when they turn 60.
The bank will not appeal to everyone, however. Although it is not a high-net worth bank, it does cherry pick customers. “We don’t expect all our customers to have a huge salary but we are looking for people who take an active interest in their money and are in control of things,” said a spokesman. “If someone came to us with a huge overdraft and wanted to switch to us we would probably turn them away.”
30/06/2012 - Guardian