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Is banking relevant?

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We often talk about banking being plumbing, using smart pipes for delivery to the door. Some even comparing banking to sewage.

I think I prefer plumbing. It sounds better.

The thing is, how often do you think of changing your utility provider? Changing electricity, water and gas is not at the top of our agenda. It may have risen higher recently, as utility fees are rising, but it’s not something you think about much.

In fact, when do you change a provider?

Whether it be your electricity or your bank, they have to do something seriously wrong for you to feel bothered. That’s why most companies don’t try to reward their existing customers, but bribe new customers to switch.

Looking at the UK switching figures, the highest rise has been for NatWest, formerly RBS. When you look under the hood, why are they getting switchers? Because they’re offering £150 to move.

Therefore, it’s intriguing that other winners are Starling and Monzo. Neither bank offers a bribe to open an account, although both banks do make it easy to open an account online in minutes.

What seems to be happening is that there is a little bit of word of mouth and recommendation, along with bribes and persuasion. The latest which figures make this clear. Which? Is the UK consumer watchdog that tracks what is happening in all markets. Their latest figures show that the net gainers for UK switching are NatWest, Nationwide, Starling and Monzo. The net losers are Barclays, Halifax (Lloyds Bank) and TSB.

Source: Which?

Interestingly, the correlations are related to either offering a bribe to switch – NatWest had offered £150 and now First Direct and Halifax offer the same – but, more importantly, there is a reputational aspect. When I look at the customer satisfaction with banks, the ones that get the most respect are often the newest.

Source: Which?

But then there are lies, darned lies and statistics. For example, as I look at the table above, Revolut appears in the top five … and yet it scores poorly on product, service, communication and transparency compared to those below it on the league tables.

Just goes to show that when you are a utility, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are either cheap, cool or bribing me to be with you.

Interestingly, from a customer satisfaction viewpoint, NatWest (RBS), HSBC and TSB score the worst. Is that why they have the most switchers? Oh no. Apparently, NatWest have the most switchers. Nothing like £150 to move, is there?

A final thought. As TSB is the only British bank that guarantees it will cover customers against fraud, it interests me that they rate so badly.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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