Consumer confidence in the retail banking industry has "eroded significantly", with an overwhelming majority of UK customers - 71% - saying they do not trust their banks, according to research released by Unisys.
Banking is now less trusted than the technology, health and education industries, says Unisys.
The survey of 679 UK adults, which was conducted by The Ponemon Institute, reveals that poor customer treatment now surpasses security as a primary concern.
Unisys says studies in previous years have found that security was the main factor affecting customers - a 2006 survey found that 47% of UK consumers would switch accounts to institutions offering stronger fraud detection and protection services. But the latest findings point to a significant shift in consumer sentiment and their willingness to switch banks if better customer service was available, says Unisys.
The attributes most cited for eroding trust were "disrespectful attitudes", poor privacy, weak IT - including Web sites, poor corporate governance and a lack of investment in the local community.
Online banks fared worse than High Street banks in the customer trust study, with the two worst-rated banks both being Internet-based. Overall the lowest six ranked banks were those with no High Street presence.
Elton Birden, VP, UK financial services, Unisys, says banks must look beyond firewalls and data breaches and understand that consumers consider everything when deciding where to place their trust.
"Banks risk a mass customer exodus if they don't get the trust equation right by securing their business operations in the ways their customers want," says Birden. "They need to think about the interdependent relationships that trust plays not only in physical and IT security but other areas such as customer relationship service, financial management, and community commitment as essential to building trust."
Birden says the poor performance by the online banks in particular also suggests that face-to-face contact and the human touch count for a lot with the British public: "Banks must have clear communication with customers and also address the emotional dimension of trust."