Two years ago, the BBC ran a survey of 13,000 viewers about their satisfaction with banks and found that the leading financial providers were Cahoot!, Smile and First Direct, whilst Abbey came last.
Unfortunately, the Beeb has removed the survey from their website but the chasm between leader (90% customer satisfaction) and loser (45%) was dramatic.
The other thing I noted back then is that the winners were all banks without branches and that the respondents had no link between the bank and their parent. For example, First Direct's ATM network was voted the best in Britain whilst HSBC's was one of the worst – it's the same darned bank and ATM network!
Now Which? – the UK's leading consumer rights organisation – has surveyed 14,000 people during the first half of 2009 to find out who is Britain’s best bank. Here are the summary results:
Best current account
91% Smile (206)
90% First Direct (423)
84% Co-operative Bank (151)
84% Cahoot (68)
79% Nationwide (676)
74% Intelligent Finance (60)
Worst current account
50% Northern Bank (33)
51% Abbey (200)
53% Bank of Scotland (264)
* figure in brackets is number of people who voted with an account at that bank
The big four UK banks – NatWest, Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Barclays – are used by 47% of those surveyed and all scored between 55% and 60%, or low in other words.
Again, banks without branches represent four out of the top six.
Equally, the reappearance of Abbey in the bottom three is surprising as, two years ago, their issues were all about a systems upgrade. Maybe customers haven't forgotten how bad that experience was.
Anyway, it makes no difference to customer loyalty with 61% of respondents saying that they have had the same current account for over twenty years. Of those who switched (23%) only 7% did so in the last year, even though half of them say it's easy and hassle free.
Combine this with another survey which found that most people wouldn’t bother switching their bank account, particularly to a new entrant, and you realise that once you've got the sucker's account opened, you've got them for life.