/ Money

Five years on – have banks learnt their lesson?

Banker in front of blackboard

Do you remember life ‘PFC’ – that’s pre-financial crisis. If we asked a producer to plot a script for how the financial crisis would unravel I don’t think in my wildest dreams it would lead us to where we are today.

Yes, today it’s five years to the day economists widely regard as the start of the financial crisis. It’s not exactly cause for celebration but perhaps an opportunity to start afresh?

It’s been a rocky journey. Take a handful of collapsed international banks; mix with bail-outs costing the British taxpayer hundreds of billions of pounds and a sprinkling of rate rigging and you’ll find a rather sour tasting banking dish.

Libor interest rate rigging

Do you believe we’re over the worst of it – have the banks themselves changed enough? Our research suggests not, as 71% of people said they didn’t think that UK banks had learnt from the crisis.

Who can blame us for our lack of confidence? We’ve faced a series of scandals that seem to have uncovered a broken culture and deep mismanagement in our banking sector. We’ve seen widespread mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI), which is on course to be the biggest financial scandal of all time, and more recently, revelations of Libor interest rate rigging and IT failure at NatWest to name just a few.

There’s a parliamentary inquiry on banking standards underway but few people appear hopeful that things are going to get better. In our survey only 26% said they were confident the inquiry will lead to positive changes to our banks.

We need to ensure banks are efficiently regulated but we also need to address the fundamentally flawed banking culture.

Service not sales

Which? is calling for the inquiry to tackle the culture in UK banking and increase competition in the market. Recently we’ve seen some challengers coming into the market to try and disrupt the dominance of the big banks, Tesco being the latest example launching it’s new mortgage offering this week, but is this enough?

Will we see a significant enough change in culture that means we will see staff prioritising customer service, not sales? What do you think needs to happen to make sure that our interests, as consumers, are at the centre of banking reform?


No. They rely too much on computers, look after themselves too well and don’t given enough customer service.

We recently moved a large amount of money from one bank to another and were staggered to find that the receiving bank didn’t bother to notify us and we were doing all the running. In the past we would have received a phone call or a letter confirming receipt. They have become lazy and hide behind a Data Protection excuse for as many things as possible and should know which of their customers don’t and are unlikely to use internet banking and look after them better. They spend enough time collecting data.

Beside us at the counter were another elderly couple having problems navigating their way through all the restrictions. Mattress banking where are you? I sometimes wonder whether it is worth the hassle using a bank. They have forgotten who the customer is.

This will only lead to more problems on the inside rather than the outside. It is like squeezing a balloon.


Banks have learnt albeit nothing that’ll help the person on the street. Take the fact that they now aren’t lending to anyone who asks, they were never like that. So they’ve gone from one extreme to the other.

And I’m sure there are more scandals waiting to be exposed.

The lesson that I think they need to learn and they never will, is “The customer is King”.

And even with all the political posturing I don’t believe the new regulator will be any better than the previous shower, so nothing learnt there.


I can’t see much improving unless there is a change of attitude toward ethics and standards. The culture of greed and lack of moral fibre remain. Without change in these areas, new regulations will just become a barrier to circumnavigate. They will learn from the crisis. They will learn not to get caught and to find new ways to extract money for poor value and unnecessary products.


Absolutely right. Unfortunately there will be no significant change of policy, there will be a lot of rhetoric and you will get one or two heads that will roll (with the cushion of a golden handshake, or if that may raise too many eyebrows, a juicy backhander) but they all socialise, meet formally and informally with each other and do whatever else that is needed to stabilise, structure and generate financial security for their inner sanctum.

Phil says:
9 August 2012

Not forgetting HSBC being up to their necks in money laundering.

What’s required isn’t another inquiry but a tribunal with the power to interrogate, investigate and punish.

David says:
9 August 2012

No they certainly have not!
I had an appointment last week with Lloyd’s Bank, at their request, to discuss my savings.
When I arrived for my 10:00am appointment I was kept waiting for 20 mins. Then when I eventually spoke to someone she said she was not able to be of much help as she did not have all the details needed.
What a way to treat your customers!


No – of course they haven’t – They won’t until they are properly regulated and monitored – Then heavily fined for any transgressions – not vast bonuses for nothing and no punishiment.

Frank says:
9 August 2012

What is so sad is the thousands of bank employees willingly (or perhaps unwillingly) defrauding (eg.PPI) their fellow citizens. Of course I understand that many people need the work.

Also tragic is the armies of marketing folk spending their days devising the schemes and advertising to sell this stuff.

If you have any influence over the next generation, urge them to choose a career in which at the end of each day that can say, at least, I did no harm to anyone today.

Jenny says:
12 August 2012

The letter in the August edition from the customer who was told that he would have to open a new account in order to access funds in a dormant account says it all. This was not ‘confusion’, but clearly a blatant attempt by the bank employee to get the customer to open an account, for which he/she would get points towards their bonus. Lloyds TSB should discipline the employee and check to see if anyone else has been conned in this way. Two other points:
1. It’s outrageous that fines imposed on banks by the FSA go back to the FSA, thereby reducing the levy the banks have to pay next year. The money should go to the Treasury or even to one of the lottery funds, where ordinary people can benefit from the money.
2. Consumers need more information about banks’ IT systems. Are they running at full capacity or is there performance to spare? What fallback facilities are in place if the main system fails or there is a disaster such as a flood, and how quickly can they be deployed? Has development and/or operations been outsourced abroad? Even if a more personal element is brought into customer service, banks will still rely on their accounting, counter and other systems for the nuts and bolts of banking.