After years of reputational issues and costly scandals, banks are finally winning back the public's trust, according to new research from uSwitch.com.
The 2014 uSwitch Current Account Awards, based on votes from over 10,000 customers, reveals almost three quarters (72%) now trust their current account provider :
Customer satisfaction with banks is strong with 82% satisfied overall
First Direct is the best bank in the eyes of consumers, coming top in eight of nine categories
After a troubled year, Co-op Bank hogs third position in categories including 'Best Current Account Provider' and 'Most Trusted'
Moving up from bottom place last year, customers give Santander the thumbs up for rewards but the thumbs down for service
RBS is voted worst current account provider by its customers, coming last in eight out of nine categories - Lloyds and HSBC also perform badly
Loyalty dwindles - only six in ten customers (59%) have been with their bank for more than ten years, down from 72% last year.
With seven in ten consumers now trusting their current account provider, banks and building societies may finally be winning over the hearts and minds of customers. uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, shines the light on the providers who have been successful and those who have failed to secure the consumer vote, in a survey of over 10,000 current account customers.
The success story is nowhere more evident than with online and phone-based bank, First Direct, whose commitment to service and experience has once again wowed customers and secured its first place in eight out of nine categories.
The Co-op Bank holds onto third position in almost every category, despite the widespread negative publicity that the Group has endured over the last year. While the Co-op dropped several places in the Best Switching Service category, falling from third place in 2013 to tenth this year, it has still managed to secure a top-three spot in the Most Trusted, Most Recommended, Best Overall Satisfaction, Best Customer Service and Best Value for Money categorioney categories - a positive start on its road to reform.
Santander has pulled itself up from bottom place last year to fourth place overall in this year's awards. Its innovative cashback programme and generous interest rates have played a strong part in this improvement - Santander comes top in the 'Best Rewards' category. However, it fails to even make it into the top ten for customer service. Despite this, the 1-2-3 account has gained a 10% share of those switching accounts since the launch of the Current Account Switching Service in September 2013.
With consumers beginning to demand more from their banks, larger players such as RBS will also need to up their game - it was voted the worst current account provider overall, coming last in all categories but one. Other members of the big four - notably Lloyds and HSBC - also performed badly, failing to secure a top-three position in any of the categories.
There is evidence that the Current Account Switching Service, introduced last September, is beginning to make an impact. The uSwitch research shows only six in ten customers (59%) have had the same current account for more than ten years - down from 72% in 2012. This, coupled with the latest figures from the Payments Council which show a 14% year-on-year increase in switching levels, suggests that consumers are at last demanding more from their bank account.
David Mann, Head of Money at uSwitch.com, says: "Where you keep your hard earned-cash should be as important as how much you earn in the first place - so it's great to see a healthy level of trust between banks and their customers. However, it's crucial that banks and building societies keep strengthening the relationship they have with their customers by offering them innovative products and services.
"It's clear that the best bank accounts are the ones that offer tangible benefits such as incentives and rewards - but other factors such as customer service, value for money and trust are as important as ever. Many providers still have a long way to go before they are comfortably sitting in their customers' good books.
"Competition in the current account market is hotter than ever and banks can't afford to take their foot off the pedal. Already this year we have seen high profile brands such as M&S and Tesco launch current accounts specifically designed to steal customers off the high street. With the likes of Virgin Money and Atom Bank also expected to launch in the next 12 months, it's clear that the Big Four are no longer holding all the cards."