FCA examines move to full bank account portability

FCA examines move to full bank account portability

The UK's Financial Conduct Authority will explore the introduction of full bank account portability as part of a review into the country's existing current account switching service.

Introduced last October, the current account switching service was designed to make it easier and quicker for Brits to move their bank provider, boosting competition.

The service, which cost the industry in the region of $750 million, was recommended by the Independent Commission on Banking, which had originally looked at full account number portability, which would have cost anything up to £5 billion.

In its first 11 months, the new system was used by 1.1 million people, a 19% increase compared with the same time period one year before. But many have been unimpressed, including FCA chief Martin Wheatley, who last month told MPs that the "actual number of people switching has remained relatively low".

With this in mind, portability is set for a reappraisal as part of the FCA's review. The watchdog will investigate whether the switching service has encouraged Brits to move banks and whether customer satisfaction has improved as providers up their game to win business.

Full portability could fare better by letting people keep their bank account numbers and removing the need to change direct debits and standing order instructions, a key area where perceived or actual problems with switching, such as missed mortgage payments, can arise.

The FCA will investigate portability alongside the new Payment Systems Regulator as it prepares to usurp the industry-controlled Payments Council, which drove the original, cheaper, switching service.

The regulators will survey retail and SME customers and talk to industry players as they examine whether to push for further changes when they deliver their review in the first quarter of next year.

A recent study by Finextra into the UK payments landscape found a general acceptance among banks that the new regulator would look to boost competitiveness further through the introduction of full account number portability, although a third of respondents felt that the costs would outweigh the benefits of such a move.

The full survey results and report can be downloaded here.

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 October, 2014, 09:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Fair enough and it might help, though on suspects the costs will be enormous, which ultimately the customer has to pay.  But the real reason for low levels of switching is "out of the frying pan into the fire" syndrome with the lack of differentiation among banks and current accounts creating apathy.  

Chris Meggs
Chris Meggs - Chasm Management Limited - Ipswich 01 October, 2014, 11:31Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Well, step aside and let loose the cannon of the law of unintended consequences! Chasm Management Limited recommends a utility bank approach whereby a bank-neutral service is provided to process current accounts. The consumer interfaces directly with this service. The service in turn interfaces with each financial institution. What this actually means is that the consumer is not tied to any one financial institution anyway, so no need for account portability.
David Birch
David Birch - Tomorrow's Transactions - London 21 October, 2014, 02:20Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

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