UK banks accuse challengers for not offering fee-free accounts

UK banks accuse challengers for not offering fee-free accounts

The UK's largest retail banks have called on the government to compel smaller, challenger banks to share the cost of financial inclusion by also offering loss-leading fee-free banking accounts.

Executives from Barclays and Co-Op were speaking to a House of Lords committee hearing on financial inclusion and a proposal to force banks to offer fee-free basic bank services to the financially vulnerable.
So far nine banks and lenders in the UK have voluntarily agreed with the Treasury to provide such accounts. But rather than limiting the initiative to the major banks, the likes of Barclays and Co-Op would prefer to see the newer, digital upstarts and fledgling challenger banks to face the same obligations and the associated cost.
"The basic bank account is a loss-making product but part of our investment in society," said Catherine McGrath, Barlcays managing director. Meanwhile, Co-Op Bank's director of products Matthew Carter accused smaller rivals of cherry-picking the most lucrative customers such as the urban affluent.
One of the main advantages for the smaller challenger banks is that they incur much smaller operating costs than their larger rivals due to a lack of legacy technology, a focus on digital-only services and a less onerous set of regulatory requirements. However the UK government, while keen to promote more competition, is also looking to introduce more oversight into new areas such as P2P lending.

Comments: (4)

Nick Ogden
Nick Ogden - - London 21 July, 2016, 14:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Current accounts are subsidised not provided for free. Moreover if you add back the overdraft revenue, especially unauthorised fees and the 0.5% Central Bank minimum interest that the banks receive on all their current positive cash balances, the loss making argument starts to fall away. If you then add back, based upon current pricings the income if a consumer makes CHAPS or International payments from their current account the mark up over costs is huge The margin on just one CHAPS payment over cost for example pays for over 600 Faster Payment transactions at cost. The truth is that the challengers overheads are managed and their technology operational cost is based on appropriate and efficient technologies. Applying a pseudo sales tax to competitors on behalf of the incumbents is not appropriate to the objective of developing a vibrant and competitive market. 


Jonathan Bowles
Jonathan Bowles - ImpactApp - Odiham 21 July, 2016, 14:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Well said

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 21 July, 2016, 17:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

What's that - existing players want to create an additional barrier to entry?  How unexpected.  I cannot see this legislated without significant challenge.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 22 July, 2016, 09:48Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

well said Nick .Still a long way to go to level the playing field and hope your comments get through to the right people