Where do you do your banking? Because the British Bank Awards have surveyed thousands of customers to discover precisely which banks are the best, and which are the worst, for their users.
The BBA measured banks against a range of factors, including their service, online banking offerings, and overall customer satisfaction. The report, which surveyed 6,500 British bank users, was purposefully extensive, going so far as to question participants about everything from mortgages to savings and loans, in order to find out who’s top dog.
Their results reveal that First Direct, an institution not found on the high street, comes out tops in the poll with an incredible 95% approval rating. In the process, the company also bagged a series of other accolades including ‘Best Current Account Provider’, ‘Best Value for Money’ and ‘Most Recommended Bank’. Trebles all round for the Leeds-based First Direct, then.
Despite the plaudits gained by First Direct, however, its parent company, HSBC, found itself in the bottom two, along with the company’s other venture, M&S Bank – both of which achieved poor marks from customers, and an overall rating of 71.2% and 70.6% respectively. That’s bad news for HSBC, as customer satisfaction has dropped 2pc over the course of a year, while the company continues to close branches at a faster rate than any other bank. In addition to this, customers may also be discovering poor savings rates, which only compound their dissatisfaction.
Mike Fotis, founder of Smart Money People who co-authored the report, said: ‘While some customers continue to see all banks as a bit boring and rather grey, it’s clear that the customer experience does vary significantly, but once again, no one comes close to toppling First Direct.’
He added: ‘Customers have been telling us that challenger banks aren’t always all they’re cracked-up to be, and seeing M&S Bank enter our league table in last place is a sign that more competition doesn’t always equal better customer outcomes. That said, we’re looking forward to seeing what the year ahead brings, when a rush of new banks like Atom Bank, Starling Bank and CivilisedBank start to really compete for our attention.’
However, it’s not just HSBC who will be studying these insights with dismay. Executives at Tesco will also be looking at the results very closely; Tesco Bank found itself down to eleventh place, having dropped an incredible eight places since last year.
Just behind First Direct was the Nationwide Building Society, who claimed second place as ‘Best Mortgage Provider’. There was good news, too, for The Co-op Bank which, after years on near-life support and being sold just this week, found themselves taking the fifth spot. Little surprise they have a decent approval rating, perhaps, given the company’s ethos of ethical banking and a customer-focused operation. And Virgin Money also found cause for celebration, having been named ‘Best Credit Card Provider.’
Virgin Money’s customer experience director, Bill Percy was eager to capitalise on the company’s success. He said: Delivering great service for our customers is at the heart of Virgin Money’s approach to banking, and we’re delighted to receive this recognition for the strides we are making, particularly as it’s voted for by customers themselves.’
Celebrating their BBA win, Joe Gordon, head of First Direct was upbeat, saying: ‘At the heart of First Direct is the belief that people matter more, so to be voted Best British Bank for the third year running means a lot to us. We know if we’re to help customers live their lives the way they want to live them, we need to keep on developing and evolving.’
The BBA’s survey also shed new light on banking preferences, which revealed that a colossal 84% of customers prefer banking using a mobile app or online facilities – and leading the way in this particular area is Natwest, who offer a well-liked banking app. Elsewhere, Best Alternative Finance Provider was awarded to Zopa, while British institution Barclays was named the best bank for managing your money.
Those Overall Customer Satisfaction Ratings in full:
1. First Direct, 95%
2. Nationwide, 88.8%
3. Virgin Money, 88.2%
4. Halifax, 84.6%
5. The Co-op Bank, 84%
6. TSB, 82.6%
7. NatWest, 82.2%
8. Santander, 81.6%
9. Barclays, 80.6%
10. Lloyds Bank, 77.8%
11. Tesco Bank, 77.8%
12. RBS, 76.6%
13. HSBC, 71.2%
14. M&S Bank, 70.6%