Built for Mars’ Peter Ramsay has released the fourth instalment of the now sought-after ‘UX for banking’ series where he reviews 12 UK-based banks and reveals whether the experience of opening an account, making a payment or freezing a card is slicker and quicker when banking with the digital challengers.
Gone are the days of visiting a bank branch to send money abroad and expecting to pay a £30 fee, Ramsay says. As consumers become accustomed to digital and cost-free experiences elsewhere, bank customers are opting for alternatives such as borderless cards and free currency conversion.
What makes a good user experience?
Being able to make a payment through a mobile phone app and not being forced to use the bank’s website is significant for good UX. Starling Bank, Revolut, Monzo, Metro Bank, Lloyds Bank and Barclays offer international payments on the app, and the incumbents ask customers to use the mobile website, which Ramsay believes “are basically unusable.”
Ramsay adds: “These incumbent banks need to be bringing in people who understand product, and then allowing them to suggest real change. Then they'd be able to catch up. For example, if Tom Blomfield from Monzo ever left Monzo and was given the reigns of HSBC, I'd bet that within two years HSBC was a world-class experience too.”
This questions why banks are not prioritising updating processes and whether it is a lost cause when more efficient providers exist. Ramsay tells Finextra Research that there are a number of problems that persist, namely “technical debt – the systems older banks are built on – but there’s also political debt.
“Managers, and managers of managers. The chain is so long, with consultants and advisors who often really don't know anything about the digital world.” He also explains that while the number of clicks alone are not a reliable way to benchmark a user's experience, it does provide a broad indication of effort is required to actually send a payment with each bank.
How free is free?
Free international payments are quickly becoming the norm. In conversation with Finextra Research, Ramsay highlighted that “the challenger banks all do a great job and are fairly cheap (or free). Out of the traditional banks both Barclays and Lloyds did well too, but they cost more money so it’s hard to recommend them.”
While many financial players claim to offer free international payments, there are sender fees, exchange rate fees and foreign bank charges that are often added to the final total.
There are no sender fees involved when sending money through Barclays, First Direct, NatWest and Revolut, but high street lenders like Nationwide, Metro Bank and Santander charge between a staggering £20 to £25.
Considering FX fees, as banks give their customers access to differing rates and add a fee on top of that cost, Ramsay points out how easy it would be for a lender to hide under the guise of offering this feature digitally, but in fact, sending a payment internationally through a bank could be more expensive.
Renowned as the best bank for travel and foreign currency, Revolut did not charge an FX fee but incumbents such as Lloyds, First Direct and HSBC charged over £4 when sending £100 to a US bank account. Further, when combining these two fees, it costs nearly £30 to send £100 using Metro Bank and Santander.
Ramsay explains: “Over time, we’ll see that the price people are willing to pay will continue to decrease, until everybody expects this to be a free service. And then what? Well, people will start comparing the banks by other metrics – probably on the experience of sending money.”
Alongside this, in the case of HSBC, customers must complete 95% of the process of sending a payment before they are informed of the extra fees – “a really efficient way of losing a customer.” Surprisingly, incumbent Lloyds came out on top here and after seven clicks, the customer was given view of how much the payment would cost, before entering the payee information.