/ Money

We want to know how your bank could be better


How does your bank rate for customer service and quality of financial advice? If its services are leaving a little to be desired, speak up now and we’ll feed your thoughts back to the FSA.

Figures just released by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) show that banks received over 1.6m formal complaints from their customers in the first six months of this year.

That’s over 7,000 complaints every day! But given that everyone in the UK has a bank account, are these figures really that high or are banks actually doing an ok job?

Name and shame the bad banks

This is the first time the banks have had to reveal the total number of complaints made against them, and it’s something we’ve been campaigning for. We hope that by naming and shaming the worst offenders they’ll improve their service, while those banks with the least complaints will benefit.

So we’d be interested to know whether your bank is one of those at the top of the complaints list, and whether this changes your view of them. And are you one of those millions of people who have needed to make a complaint?

What’s most interesting about the figures is the nature of the complaints reported. Around 1.3 m complaints were due to poor customer service, poor financial advice or the mis-selling of financial products. These are all issues you raised with us at last year’s Big Banking Debate – and areas where we’re campaigning for change.

How could your bank be better?

We’ve heard from many of you about how levels of customer service have deteriorated and how banks only want to talk to you to when they’re trying to sell you something.

That’s why the Which? banking manifesto demanded that sales incentives and commissions for bank staff should be banned and that branch and call centre staff should be rewarded for providing good customer service.

We’ve called on the FSA to enforce this, so it was great to hear that they’ll be reviewing banks’ practices. We’re meeting with them to discuss this and will be putting forward the stories you’ve told us, including any comments made here on Which? Conversation.

So do you believe that sales incentives lead to poor customer service? Or are you happy with the customer service given by your bank? Tell us now and your thoughts could make it to the FSA.


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pickle says:
5 October 2010

My bank’s financial advice is poor – all they can offer are their products, and I can find better elsewhere.
Their call centre is a nightmare – press button, press button two….. and even then you get the wrong person. It is all so impersonal.
For normal straightforward banking it’s OK, but for anything else NO.

Higher Interest Rates!

Miranda says:
6 October 2010

Frankly, I’m not sure mine could. UK call centres, open 24*365.25, no “press N for whatever” systems, helpful when I have to deal with them by email from overseas… The One Account was good but I had to leave when I paid off my mortgage. But First Direct are simply the best.

Karen says:
6 October 2010

I’m happy to write that First Direct do make things very easy if you want telephone banking services. Friendly staff who can be heard and understood which I think is rare these days. Only problems I’ve had in the past is when I needed to make arrangements to use a counter service [withdraw cash to buy a car etc] as that needs a call transfer to a customer service person at HSBC which is clearly based overseas and our ability to communicate and be understood drops from 99% to around a mutually frustrating 20%.

Miranda says:
6 October 2010

Mind you, Santander (with whom I deal mainly on my mother’s behalf) have a fair bit of work to do. In Loughborough, their ex-Alliance and Leicester branch has (mostly) helpful staff; the ex-Abbey one, in my mother’s experience, does not. And trying to get them to display all of my accounts in one place is a long, and as yet unresolved, problem.

Louise Finlay says:
6 October 2010

I do all my personal banking online and get exccellent service. HOWEVER I am also the Treasurer of my school PTA and the service provided by the bank we have our “community/charity” account with is TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE! Access to an advisor via phone is good but I have been asking for online access for the last 6 months and despite being told by serveral different advisors that they’ve processed the request I have yet to receive access codes and pin numbers. I am now phoning them every two weeks to get this done and all I am told is, “Well, I don’t know what went wrong last time, I’ve put the request through the system now so you should have had the codes and pin numbers, etc. within 10 days.” And guess what – 10 days go by, no correspondence so another phone call, another advisor, and another “Well, I don’t know…..etc..”

My bank (NatWest) would be improved if the staff at all branches (and on the ‘phone) gave the same information as each other and offered the same level of service as their better branches. As it is the information given from different operators on different shifts and different dates at the call centres give conflicting advice, which sometimes cost me money. For example the staff dealing with the Credit Card section have told me three different versions of what date is the earliest each month I can make a payment without it being regarded as last months, 4 different versions of how soon they receive a “faster online payment” from my Nat West current account when done on line and 2 different versions of whether or not Bank Holidays are “working” days or not when online transactions are being made.
As for branch staff – the branch at which my account is held has diabolical customer service and the Manageress has been downright rude to me several times. By comparison the branch near to where I work, in a much less affluent area of the city, has charming staff who will do absolutely anything that they can to assist and to do things quickly and efficiently. A city Centre branch ranks somewhere between the two with a dirty office and a manageress who is arrogant and unhelpful but tellers who are really quite good.
I don’t understand why there cannot be a consistent level of service and I think it is diabolical that advice given is not consistent throughout the organisation, especially when the customers lose out by the discrepancies.
I used to bank with the Co-Op but left there a number of years ago when they set up a loan paid from my current account (both with them) and for a whole year they took the payments on the wrong date (it was the date they’d told me but NOT the one they’d put into their computer system) and therefore recorded it as late on both my load account and on my credit rating. I had to complain to Mervyn Pedalty, their then MD, and my MP to get the to refund the charges that they had added to the loan and to get them to correct the credit rating file. Recently I was in a Branch of the Co-Op and they tried to get me to open an account and were offhand in the extreme when I said that I’d had a poor experience with them before so I was reluctant to go back.

Just proof reading my comment above: I should have made it clear that apart from the lack of consistency in advice and the disappointing variation in levels of service between branches, NatWest are actually pretty good and I would recommend them over The Co-Op, HSBC (where my partner used to bank) and Barclays (where I used to carry out transactions for the national retailer for whom I used to work).

6 October 2010

Banks should be required to display the current rate of interest on a savings account alongside the other account details online rather than require customers to embark on obscure journeys through the bank’s site to find “no longer available” accounts (whilst remembering the exact issue number!).

Lloyd’s don’t give receipts as a matter of policy – when I handed over a cheque for £5000 and asked for a receipt I was refused – a senior manager said I need a paying “request” ( they do have to put you in your place) from a “paying in book” . As if people walk around with paying in books. Lloyds claim they can it reduces queuing – yet i can get a receipt from burger bar for a fiver and I have to queue a lot less than I do in a bank.

Ironically – I said “what happens if you make a mistake how can I prove it” – the manager said ” I will show in the screen the cheque has been paid into your account” it happened that in all the fuss they cheque had forgot to scan the cheque in — QED.

Unbelievably we are the new owners of the banks and they still treat us like this. Each tax payer has paid £40,000 each to bail them out -and we still pay them bonuses – bonuses for what exactly? If anybody wants to know how banking works, look at the wiki link below. The link will it tell you the principles of banking- how banks lend money they don’t have ( to people with collateral)- they create it form fresh air and can then charge interest on it. Banks can legally do this because they have a banking licence so it not fraud as such. Banks say it safe practice because they only lend this fictional money against collateral – for example a house so the bank can get this fictional money back at any time -so where is the problem?


At present because of “Factional reserve banking” (link above) the banks on average have lent 35x more money than they actually have ( or in Northern Rock’s case x150 just before it went bust). Can you imagine how much interest they are racking in when for every one pound deposited with the banks they command interest on £35 – this is literally a licence to make money – and note they are just selling fresh air. Some might say where is the harm ? Well the harm is all this funny money inflated asset prices like houses and then people could not afford to pay the funny money back – then falling price of the underwriting assets (USA not the UK – yet) meant the collateral no longer covered the price the loan – and that is why we had to rescue the bands.

Note how socially useful the above lending is – they don’t “make money” they sell us fresh air. You could not even say the increase in the house prices in the UK increased the number of new houses built per year– house starts decreased – what a wonderful system. The problem is not “capitalism” but “non capitalism” in this new “non capital” banking world as explained above.

And what does the government charge for a banking licence – a guinea – how quaint. Why the government doesn’t sell these banking licences to the highest bidder – like they did for Tv broadcasting licences or G3 phones licences – I have no idea – we could probably get rid of the government deficit for what banks would “willing” pay every ten years (say) for these banking licences. Note this idea would stop the tax increases and cuts – and decrease the ban bonus because the banks would have to pay a fair price for these licences. This would mean the banking would go abroad – shame – pity they did not go sooner each tax payer would be £40k richer.

Dave Thrussell says:
8 October 2010

The main stream banks rely on loyal customers who they treat with contempt. The lack of interest on current accounts and ridiculously poor rates on savings accounts makes me wander if they really want our accounts at all.

I’ve had problems with 3 different banks in the last 2 months and can’t believe the level of customer service – this is 2010 after all !

I was told to send funds for my business bond by CHAPS (telegraphic transfer) to Santander. When I asked the business advisor to check with the Bonds department why it had not been opened, he told me “It’s ten-to-five, they’re not going to answer the phone now”. The next day, I asked again for him to call and was told “We don’t do things like that, they’re very busy, we can only email them.” Having paid for the CHAPS (instant transfer), and we are talking about a not insignificant sum (at least to me) , they’re basically saying that I’m not important and nor is my money ! It wasn’t till I threatened to withdraw my funds that they finally opened it by the 3rd day !!!

I’ve had accounts with Nationwide for over 20 years, but have recently lost faith. First they introduced charges; but worse still, their online literature is so inadequate that 3 members of branch staff and one Customer Contact Centre member could not tell me the rate change to my account if I made a withdrawal, and advised me wrongly that there would be no change. Having made the withdrawal, I now noticed that the rate dropped from 2.5% to 0.1% !!

Alison says:
13 October 2010

I have had very illuminating experiences of banks recently through helping my partner to register lasting power of attorney with the banks used by his father. In terms of customer service, ie the way they have dealt with the form-filling, sensitivity, efficiency etc our conclusions are: Nationwide – excellent; Barclays – pretty good; Santander – OK, and Lloyds TSB – awful. The irony is that the service he received is directly disproportionate to the amount his father has invested with each bank. Lloyds TSB can expect divorce papers shortly!

Mal561 says:
25 October 2010

after more than 20 years of grumbling about RBS we decided that being moved to Santander whether we liked it or not was the last straw. Taking account of your information we decided to move to the cooperative bank – and how we regret it now. The bank did not transfer our money over as we were given to believe when we visited the branch to organise the switch – hence when the account went live on October 4 and the direct debits came in there was no cash to pay them. We had letters from the bank and from 3 creditors all charging us money. So my wife, who tends to deal with the finances phoned the number on the letter from the bank and was positively hectored about making sure there was enough money in to cover debits – when I tried to explain the situation I was told that it was nothing to do with the person I was speaking to. At this point she put the phone down as she was so badly upset. The following day we both took time off work and went into the old bank to see what could be done – they could not have been nicer and the transfers were expedited in minutes. Later that day my wife noticed that her state retirement pension wasn’t showing as having arrived on the 4th (the due date) so she phoned the helpline and they couldn’t find it either. Then she had to phone the Pension service to let them know – this little lot took over half an hour of time. 2 days later a paper statement arrived with the pension payment in full view. A further call to the helpline reassured her that the money was truly there and not a fiction, but no one could understand why it didn’t show the day after it arrived.
Friday 22 October she tried to transfer some money from the current account to the savings account and the online system demanded a card reader be used. We also noticed that a standing order to pay a regular bill had not gone out. Saturday 23 October we visit the Liverpool Branch where we opened the account. By now we also have 3 cheques that came from ERNIE. Lovely stuff! Wife approaches the cashier in branch to pay the cheques in and is told to complete a paying in form (this is the first time we’ve ever done it at this bank). the cashier was, to be blunt, unpleasant. My wife was told off in no uncertain terms for completing the form wrongly and not knowing that this place was not her branch, while the cashier huffed and puffed correcting the form.by this time my wife was shaking with upset. We then visited another bank staff member to sort out the rest of the problems (why can it not all be done by one person). the new member of staff found that the unpaid standing order was due to start in November – why – no one could tell us that. She also did not understand why we were asked to use the card reader to transfer money between our own accounts at the same branch. By the end of this visit my wife as completely unable to conduct any more business in town (we were supposed to be shopping for a new bathroom) and we had to go home.
My wife has sent a letter of complaint by first class post on 12 October – she got an acknowledgement on 21 October – it even struck me as being a tad slow for a response.
Under no cirucumstances can either of us recommend anyone transferring over to the Cooperative Bank.

Hi. Sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience with the Co-op. Unfortunately no company will ever manage to give perfect service every time – for me, it’s how they deal with errors when they crop up that is important. And in this case it looks like the Co-op has piled one mistake onto another, giving you a really bad experience in-branch.

Every year, we ask around 14,000 members what they think about their current account – Co-op scored well this year, coming third in overall satisfaction. However, that’s absolutely no excuse for the poor service you received and you’ve done the right thing in complaining – the more we tell banks what they’re doing wrong (and threaten to switch), the more they’ll have to take notice. If you’re not happy with the Co-op’s final response, take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Being a Which? Recommended Provider (WRP) can never be an excuse for letting standards slip and we always reserve the right to remove the WRP title if we’re not happy with a company’s behaviour.

RoyM says:
28 October 2010

I recently went into my local Lloyds TSB just to pay in a cheque. It was from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme following a matured savings bond in the collapsed London Scottish Bank. I could see the cashier was about to head off into the back office so I asked what she was doing. The reply was that ” the cheque has to be approved” and despite my protestations that it was from the Government and there obviously wouldn’t be a problem with it – off she went! I was then asked to wait until someone came and then was led off into a side office. Again I protested and insisted to know what the problem was. “Money laundering regulations ” was the reply and I was then asked where the money had come from so I repeated that it was plainly an official Government approved payment. We then moved on to what I was going to do with the money – which was the real reason that they were trying to delay me but thankfully I don’t need financial advise and certainly not from Lloyds TSB so I left. But really, what an underhand way of going about it.

Bank of Scotland continuously give out differing information. Every person you speak to whether it be in a branch or call centre apologises for the ‘wrong information’ given by previous colleagues, & assures you they are giving correct details. Of course, that is never correct either.
Charges are extortionate and liberally applied. Apparently direct debits are applied anytime between 1am-3am so you must have funds in the account the day before – or a Friday if payment is due on Monday. The time it takes for cheques to clear can be five working days.
I received a cheque from BOS and had to wait five days for that to clear as well!
Santander is equally as bad and you end up trying to speak to people who don’t understand you and are obviously simply working from a script!
Banks are worse than loan sharks.
You are quizzed constantly under what it terms ‘money laundering’. We paid some cash into the account and as mentioned by someone above, the inquisition starts as to where the money has come from, what you’re going to do with it, etc. start. As pensioners, it’s not really likely to have come from some of the sources they were inferring!

Hi There. I would like to tell you quickly my problem with the banking system. My Stepson came out of the army in October 2008 after serving seven years. He did 12 months on the dole which was really humiliating for him. Anyway we saw an add for Property Professionals so he phoned up to enquire, he was invited for an interview which now we know that everyone passes. I went over to Manchester with him to have a look at the set up and it looked good, about 15 people were on computers doing their lessons, the doorman said the company had been there about three years and it looked ok. The Lady we were talking to told us it was a very good company training facilities second to none and two years work at the end of training with very good rates of pay. I agreed to take out the loan with what I thought was Barclays Bank a reputable Bank who would have looked into Property Professionals company to make sure it was a reputable company and everything was above board. So I would take out the loan and then after three months training my stepson Antonio Ching would take over the payments from his earnings
He paid £500 there and then, I paid the next two months payments on the loan and Antonio never even got called for a lesson even after repeated phone calls to see about when he was due to start, they just kept giving him a date then cancelling. Then we heard they had gone into liquidation. The loan company whom we thought was Barclays Bank turned out to be Barclays Partner Finance just another loan company, we knew then that we were in trouble. We contacted them to see about cancelling the loan agreement but were told that they were looking for another company to take over the training and they would put the loan repayments on hold until it was sorted out, this they did. The company that the loan company found was called Stroma. Antonio went over to Manchester again to a meeting with Stroma for them to explain the training schedule. What turned out to be the case for Stroma a three month long course with Property Professionals is substituted with a two week course with Stroma and no work contract at the end of it, this is unacceptable in any body’s way of thinking.
We have already spent £500 pound and three monthly installment of £264.27 this is for two years a total of £6342.50 for nothing.
We have tried to cancel the agreement but BPF will have none of it. My case has been to the Administrator for the Financial Ombudsman Service twice and been refused. It is now with the Ombudsman proper but I am not holding my breadth.

Reconfirmed continuous payments may be happening now but didn’t used to . I still think the least they could do is have it confirmed in writing both ways – surely good practice.Wiith the heightening in security practices the only people they block is the users who treat as frauds .If it is their practice they ignore. If you are elderly or disabled they couldn’t care less just brand you abusive if you protest.I have had trouble putting money in because can’t remember long sequences of numbers – dyspraxia- this is so with 10% of population undiagnosed with this . These marketing call centres don’t keep records & have no discretion . This was informed to me by Her Majesty’s Court Service during my MA 2003 mature student . No wonders there is a credit crunch & miscarriages of justice ?!As for Financial Ombudsman whom these organisations funds . Why are they set up like marketing call centres with bias . They have defrauded me since first raised concerns in 1997 .Worst is how the Banks franchise out especially insurance which is not regulated so the Financial Ombudsman comply with delays & ripping off as have same questionable structure.