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The banks lost our trust – but can they win it back?

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Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, appeared on BBC 5 Live on Monday to discuss the future of banking with a panel of experts. As trust and culture topped the agenda, aren’t we overdue a big change in banking?

British banking culture is under more scrutiny than ever. As staff incentives have focused on sales for too long, the ‘sales first’ culture has leaked from top executives right down to front-line bank staff. Richard Lloyd added this morning that the culture of banking will only change when customers are put before sales.

Philip in Nottingham called in to BBC 5 Live and told the panel:

‘They need a good spanking all these bankers. We need to tell them there are new terms and conditions – take it or leave it. And we, the public, should run the renumeration committees responsible.’

Bank service versus sales

Mark, a Natwest employee, texted the show to say:

‘I worked for NatWest for almost 20 years. Until banks return to a service-based outlook as opposed to an aggressive sales culture, bad behaviours will continue. Sales sales sales, sorry, ‘meeting customers’ needs’ – is the underlying problem in branch banking.’

A listener named Jan also rang the panel to share her view on one way to change banking culture:

‘There are not enough women in banking, and certainly not at the top levels – I believe there’s not a single global bank that’s run by a woman. Clearly the culture which runs through an organisation is determined by the people who run it, and a little less testosterone and a little more conversation might help.’

Have banks been trading on our trust?

So consumers’ trust in banks has been seriously shaken. Greg Clark, financial secretary to the Treasury, made a point that people trust their banks to act in their best interests. But he added that, , that trust has been abused. In our recent research, we found that over two-thirds of people don’t trust bankers – leaving them less trusted than estate agents and lawyers.

To highlight the problem, one consumer texted the show to talk about the PPI mis-selling scandal:

‘This was not perpetrated by a tiny number of bankers… this was the whole of the banking profession, from directors to clerks.’

One tweeter contacted us to talk about his lack of confidence in bankers’ training:

‘My 24yr niece. No academic qualification to her name, earns enough at [Big Bank] to run new Range Rover and has a penchant for spending! It beggars belief and makes a mockery of having need for academic qualifications.’

When Ross McEwan, head of retail banking for NatWest and RBS, suggested that consumers lacked confidence to borrow, one tweeter said:

‘Lack of confidence’ – not surprising. RBS et al wiped all possibility of financial confidence from UK’.

Can switching make a difference?

It’s often suggested that people should switch their banks if they are dissatisfied with their service. But our research found that UK consumers are more likely to get a divorce than they are to switch their bank accounts. One caller to BBC 5 Live explained their reason why:

‘You say ‘why don’t you move banks?’ It’s because they’re all the same.’

While another tweeter made us laugh by suggesting:

‘Could banks not attract customers by combining both in special offers? #Divorce #SwapBanks’

If you want to find out some of the suggestions the panel made for improving banking in the future, you can tune in to replay the show. Our Big Change campaign is working hard to try and fix some of these issues, but in the meantime, how do you think we can change banking culture in Britain?

Stephen Rosling says:
13 November 2012

I think Lloyds and the Coop are already making changes to their incentive schemes. I noticed this a few months ago shortly after I received a redundancy payment into my account, i.e. no-one has been in touch with me, even though I would have welcomed a discussion!

As someone who has worked in financial services for over 25 years and for the last few years has been deeply involved in the FSA’s TCF initaitive, they key issue is that customer risks and issues aren’t treated with the same priority when compared to other issues – shareholder priorities, sales volumes, profit margins etc. Yes, there has been a focus on customer satisfaction, but this is different to fair treatment.

For the culture to change, there needs to be a new and sustained set of behaviours from the top of the organisation. It seems that many organisations treated TCF as a project, i.e. with an end date and then delegated it to others. Rather than “numbers” people being at the top, how about people who have a genuine interest and desire to do what’s best for their customers, (not the shareholders.) “Fairness” also needs to be part of the recruitment and selection process.


Despairing at the pathetic service and rip off culture of the big banks I turned to the Co-op Bank in the hope of something better.
So much for ethics, they are the same or worse than the others. Getting money back from them(on maturity of a fixed deposit) has been a nightmare.I am now fighting for interest for the time they enjoyed my funds free of charge.
When I worked in banking it was against the rules to allow deposits to mature on non-banking days eg the weekend. The Co-op seems to think it is tough luck on the customer if they can’t get their cash back nor receive interest for the weekend.

Dawn Richardson says:
22 November 2012

Its not just the Banking System that is untrustworthy it is Society itself.. Government promises which Fail and Let us down Continually always about Money… The UK is money driven and this country is all Spent out due to Toxic Debt and Greed..
What a future for our children?…I forsee there will be struggles, poor compliance and Lawsuits..
Corrupt practices is the name of the Game today..
FSA is useless and need to play by the rules..What chance has the individual got in this country today. None!. Unless you have Money you are on the treadmill for the rest of your days..


Deregulation has a lot to answer for allowing the banks to defraud us colluded to by the Government .At the moment I am watching Santander represent large cheques it has not paid out on when told by me would represent correct one . They have been using automatic robots to tell you being defrauded calling their number which the banks say never do .I am on telephone preference service too. Then they say would never call you personally??!! While they are refusing access they are becoming richer by £1000+. Do they think we are stupid ? And pretending we haven’;’t noticed.? This is what happens when control is given to dubious accountants.

Dawn Richardson says:
5 December 2012

Control is the Operative word! …you have hit the NAIL ON THE HEAD our money is not our own.. The FSA have failed us the public in many ways in order to protectour interests legaly with Financial Institutions that is what they are there for! I am one of them who was with KSFIOM BACK IN 2008 involving the Kaupthing Bank situation..domicled in the UK they were questioned and got away with it..

William France says:
5 December 2012

I live in France and I have been watching the banking scandal in the UK unfolding with alarm but without surprise.

I was in the UK when the Government relaxed the rules on the banks. At college I was told on a liberal studies course, that the amount of money a bank could safely lend was roughly ten times the value of its liquid assets. I assumed that this was one of those natural laws that anyone in a position of trust would follow rigorously. It was pointed out that the UK banks (this was in the 1960s) had always stuck to this rule and had survived safely through the depression of the 1930s. The US banks on the other hand had overlooked this rule and lent money to fools betting on the US stock exchange. Their banks collapsed.

Starting in the 1980s with internationalism, the British banks eyed with envy the prophets being made by the US banks who had not learned their lesson in 1929. Everyone thought that they were protected by computers; What could go wrong? The Property market was proving to be as lucrative as that promised by the South Sea Bubble. It appears that greed has prevented the banks from learning the lessons from History.

Banks should return to looking after money, not making it. Of course they should make profits and of course the employees should be well paid for doing so. However, nobody should be paid a bonus for doing their job for which they are well paid. That is what they are paid for. Suggesting that they need a bonus to work properly is tantamount to saying that they can’t be trusted to work properly. Who wants people working in a bank that can’t be trusted?
No wonder the banking system is sick.

Dawn Richardson says:
5 December 2012

Absolutely William
My impression is that the Bankers think they are “Little tin Gods” and have a power over people because the country is in Debt, people are in genuine need in these times of austerity.
Maladministration by the FSA, Faults and Greed in the Banking industry due to a lack of control during the profit years.

Admittedly I made a profit from my properties at the right times however.
Only to be parted from it when Kaupthing Singer an Friedlander went down and into Liquidation. They were advertised as being Solvant at the time as AAA but lied and knew they were in Meltdown, many people suffered in this cobweb of deciet… which I truely believe the British Treasury had some part in this debacle under Labour. also as regards KSFUK which went down as well..
So where is sthe TRUST?
Excessive charges is an issue as well the Banksjust jumped on the Band wagon a disgrace!.
As well as archaic Celtic Laws in the Isle of Man. ;(
Where was the FSA for its UK residents then? NO HELP whatsoever.


I retired from Natwest 11 years ago.The branch staff ,then,were under terrible pressure sell,sell,sell and the customer became secondary.NOTHING HAS CHANGED!!!!!!
Until we return to the days when customers used to enjoy going in to the Bank ie treated as a customer and not a potential sale will the banks remain in the big black hole they dug for themselves.