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In banks we trust: a UK perspective

Or do we? It’s hard to know how the public feels about things these days. A controversial statement in itself, considering social media and the amount of public avenues in which one can air their opinion, review or grievance. However, public opinion doesn’t always seem to balance out with public behaviour, as the highly anticipated “switch your bank in 7 days” initiative has shown.

I saw a tweet from Chris Skinner at FSClub which claimed that since UK account switching was introduced in 2013, only 12% of consumers know about it, and only 2% have used it. This is a fun fact considering the Global Consumer Banking Survey in 2014 found that the UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of trust in the sector. Some 15% of UK consumers have little to no trust in their bank, which is double the mistrust of countries such as the US, Germany and France. India came out on top with 73% stating complete trust in their financial institution. So what is up with the UK consumer? It would appear that very few people actually trust their bank completely, but that hardly anyone does anything about it.

I can’t tell a lie and say that all banks are equally as trust-worthy as each other, but in the UK consumers still traditionally stick with the first bank they join. The results of the highly anticipated “switch your bank in 7 days” only cements this. Are UK consumers happy to not trust their bank, complacent with the whole system or just plain lazy? 

Research carried out in 2014 by PwC on how financial services lost its mojo found that it was in fact apathy that pervaded the survey findings of over 2,000 consumers across the UK. So, how can banks get their customers to start paying attention again? In the last five years, highly publicised bankers bonuses, regular system crashes (from customers completely unable to access their funds to frozen mobile banking services), and a general feeling of discontent have certainly not helped matters. 

British banks need to demonstrate that they treat their customers fairly and honestly, which most (presumably) do. However, lifestyle advertisements and tag lines about how they’ll always be there to help aren’t quite enough to boost public opinion. The waters of whether or not consumers trust their bank are muddy and it is time to clear them. Is your mobile banking app up to scratch? If not, why not? Mobile is the first route to grabbing those millennials early on and as most banking relationships last longer than the average marriage, it would be stupid not to catch their attention. 

FIs offer gold cards and rewards for their high earning customers, but do they offer money management initiatives and budgeting tools for lower income customers? How can FIs catch the attention of the older demographics? Are the silver surfers being rewarded for going online instead of in-branch?  

Behaviour and habit is often ingrained and very hard to change, however if FIs want to close physical branches and somehow still grow customer trust they will need to find comprehensive strategies to encourage this behaviour without making the disgruntled British population feel even more put out.


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