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What would your perfect bank look like?

Piggy banks flying with wings

Most of us have gripes about our bank – queues, bad customer service, rubbish rates to name a few. But what if you could create the perfect bank with anything you wanted? What would your bank utopia look like?

When was the last time you visited your bank? How helpful did you find the staff – did they quickly fulfil your needs or try and sell you a product you didn’t want?

How useful was the information you were given? Clear, in plain English or complicated with reams of small print? And what about the environment – spacious and un-crowded or stuffy and packed with long queues?

The problem with banks…

People have told us time and again that they aren’t satisfied with their banks. Reasons range from poor customer service and low interest rates on savings and unfair charges to expensive contact telephone rates and poor quality call centres. Despite this, many people choose not to switch banks because there’s a general sense that they’re all as bad as each other.

In a few weeks’ time the Independent Commission on Banking will release its final report, setting out its recommendations to Government on the reform of the banking industry. We hope this report will mark the beginning of groundbreaking changes to the banking system, and this got me daydreaming about what a perfect bank would look like…

My perfect bank

I don’t know about you, but when I go to my bank and there are more than three people in line I think they should open another desk. And if I do have to queue I don’t want bank staff to try and sell me products that I don’t want or need.

I work full-time, and would like more staff available in branch at times that suit me and for call centre staff to be able to deal with all of my queries without having to be passed from pillar to post.

I would also like my bank to contact me if a new savings account is introduced with better rates of interest and all new products to be available to me as a loyal customer rather than just to entice new ones. Plus, my bank should text me when I’m nearing my overdraft limit so I have a chance to act before I’m charged.

If it turns out my bank has mis-sold a product then I want to know that the senior management will be held properly to account. More generally, when I have a problem, I want to deal with someone who can help there and then rather than being told to make an appointment or being asked to call an anonymous phone line. And more than anything, I want the staff to prioritise service over sales.

Clearly I could go on, but that’s enough of me – we want to hear from you. What’s wrong with your bank – and what would you expect out of a perfect bank?

On Thursday 8 September we’ll be holding an event to listen to your views on how the perfect bank would look. Find out more and register here.


In bullet format:
* Plenty of branches to call into with enough staff to see someone in a reasonable time without waiting for more than, say, 15 minutes watching one person at one till whilst 9 other tills are shut;
* No gimmicks or sales pitch whilst you are transacting your business;
* No piped music;
* No pretence to pay interest on your current account when that paid is so pitiful that generally it comes to less than a penny per month;
* Charges are all upfront and not in any way hidden (and are based firmly on the real cost of the service / action being charged for);
* Call centres are in the UK and staffed by people with good English skills, whilst at the same time having staff available by request who can speak other languages;
* Offer a Cheque Guarantee Card (now the national service has been withdrawn by the payments council);
* Offers the option of on-line banking if you wish to use it;
* All staff at all branches and all call centres are polite;
* Accurate / honest in the management of your account.


I like all of Dave D’s suggestions. Would also add:

* online banking that is secure and easy to use – I have four different accounts that I manage online and the variation in quality of their online services never fails to surprise me.
* instant transfer of money. Come on – it’s electronic. Why do I have to wait 3 working days to get my cash? I transfer money between accounts all the time – some banks do it instantly, others take their time. Surely if one can they should all be able to? Or am I missing something?


Unlike, according to Amnesty International, the Royal Bank of Scotland and other UK high street banks, including Barclays and Lloyds, my perfect bank wouldn’t continue to make financial investments in companies that produce cluster munitions despite a government ban on the production of the weapons.


My ideal bank was the Midland in Enfield Town in 1966. My initial interview was with the manager himself who allowed me to have a card for his brand new [£10!] cash machine and immediately gave me a book of ten cheques. The staff were all well-dressed, intelligent, and polite; they welcomed me to the counter by name, gave me crisp new notes, supplied a new cheque book from stock on demand, set up standing orders and direct debits carefully and sent a confirmation letter, sent me a comprehensible statement that arrived within two days of month-end, helped with overdrafts or loans with care and consideration. The bank provided bankers’ drafts for a very small fee, maintained a very smart banking hall with no extraneuous literature or posters, provided comfortable leather-upholstered chairs, sensible tables and good pens for doing your stuff, had a litter bin which was emptied as necessary, cleared cheques between other banks in The Town overnight, looked after documents and valuables for low charges, gave excellent advice on request [and not before], generally did not encourage children to enter but looked after them nicely if they had to come in with a parent, saw you in a private place if you wanted to discuss a financial arrangement, ascertained your circumstances and requirements fully before engaging in any additional transactions requested, gave honest and knowledgable recommendations, and offered trustworthy savings and insurance products. The manager drove a Rover, the staff had good pay and conditions and were well-regarded, and the brass letter-plate on the front door was polished daily. Isn’t all that just so old-fashioned? Who would want a bank like that? – nobody would put up with all that pomposity and condescension today would they?


I would!!!!

If they just added to that the call centre and on line items that I listed at the top of this convo and the security matters that Nikki added, I would be at their doorstep begging for an account there in seconds!

One word describes what John wrote: PROFESSIONAL.


My ideal bank:

* The same interest rates paid for a bank account, across the board, for all its customers
* Charges that reflect ACTUAL loss to the bank caused by the individual account holder’s actions – not a charge that recovers the previous financial year’s losses spread by how many charges they estimate they will have to impose (ie, follow common law/legal precedent as it has been for over 100 years)
* A bank that does not manipulate charges to get more money from an individual customer – instead of charging for a non payment of direct debit (£35) it reuses funds taken from balance and pays them towards direct debit and charges £25 for an unauthorised card transaction (even though the money was in account at point of sale) then adds on £35 for an unauthorised overdraft fee when there’s not enough remaining in the account – a total of £60 (the fraud act covers this but banks seem to be exempt from it? why, even the FSA don’t know!)
* Has all its call centres based in the UK
* Doesn’t sell on “reports” or “analysis” of people’s accounts to big business, which are bought and used against people via demographics
* That allows an account holder to withdraw more than £1000 of their own money without having to give days notice to the branch (santander accept unlimited amounts, but its a “security risk” when you want to withdraw)
* A bank that will take more than 5 bags of change per day – once again this is currently deemed to be “a security risk”
* A bank that allows the old electron style bank account holder – ie, no overdraft, no card payments – to withdraw their pension/wages from all cash machines not just their own (helping society)
* Bank that returns to allowing the use of cheques and pressures big businesses to accept them also

More than anything, I would like to see a bank that gets involved with communities and people who need help, using their influence to campaign for basic rights of society that needs some help.
Pressurising card payments to business which are way over the permitted card payment charge

I won’t hold my breathe…..


Some really interesting suggestions here. I particularly like your comments about charges, selling on of information and that banks shouls be getting involved with their communities more.

Bob Phillips says:
23 August 2011

My ideal – or as close to ideal as makes little difference – exists: it is first direct. When you want to see them they are there 24/7/365, any time zone, and they almost always answer immediately. It is a person who answers, and that person is always (in over 20 years experience) friendly, courteous, knowledgeable (they have all my info in front of them on a screen, and from their responses I would guess their screens are laid out so as to help them help), and empowered to act immediately on almost everything I ever want them to do. (I have only got into difficulties when they have to hand over to an HSBC operator, e.g. for foreign currency accounts.) fd offer all the services that other banks offer, at approximately the same cost – these services are a commodity very little differentiated among the banks.

An example. I called in a panic at 3am I was due to emigrate the next day with my whole family and I realized at the last minute that my employer had not paid for the tickets – I would have to do so at Heathrow. I did not have enough money. The fd person was friendly, calming, but did not have an immediate answer. She said: “Make a cup of tea, I will call you in 10 minutes.” Because it was fd, I trusted her to do so. She called in 8 minutes and said: “My power to extend your overdraft is limited – to go further I would have to ask a more senior manager, in the morning, and that is too late for you. But I have found a way round this. I have extended your overdraft as far as I am allowed; I have taken your wife’s details from your account and opened a VISA card for her and maxed its credit; I have maxed your VISA card credit. With all that, you can pay for your tickets with £46 to spare. And, by the way, your plane leaves from gate 43.”

That is about as close to ideal as it gets.