Customer Service Awards 2013 highlights: The winners
The Moneywise Customer Services Awards – based on the biggest survey of its kind in the UK with more than 20,000 readers sharing their views – exist to answer these very questions. Here are the highlights from this year's awards.
MOST TRUSTED FINANCIAL SERVICE PROVIDER IN BRITAIN
WINNER: YORKSHIRE BUILDING SOCIETY
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SMILE
This year, for the first time in five years – since the awards have taken place – the winner is Yorkshire Building Society (YBS).
Moneywise readers and survey respondents were full of praise for the building society, which is the second largest in the UK with 3.5 million members and assets of approximately £33 billion.
One very satisfied YBS customer told Moneywise: "It actually takes the time to understand and resolve my issues and requests fully and comprehensively. In short, it really does care. I also feel like a valued customer rather than someone who is just a profit opportunity."
MOST TRUSTED MAINSTREAM BANK
HIGHLY COMMENDED: HSBC
Winning the hugely important award of Most Trusted Mainstream Bank is a company that has overcome its fair share of trials and tribulations – demonstrating exactly why good customer service can move mountains when it comes to retaining, as well as attracting, customers.
This year's winner, NatWest, shows that the big banks really can get it right. It has been quietly winning trust by showing customers it values them, even while its rivals have been growing in unpopularity.
In our survey, people told us that they thought NatWest had been innovative when launching new products and the bank received a lot of praise for its online banking facilities. They also told us that when NatWest had IT problems last year, it resolved the issues quickly and communicated effectively with customers throughout, ensuring no-one lost out as a result.
This willingness to engage with its customers shows that banks really do reap rewards when they display a strong customer service ethic.
MOST CONSISTENT FINANCIAL PROVIDER
WINNER: NATIONWIDE BUILDING SOCIETY
HIGHLY COMMENDED: HSBC
Taking the Moneywise Customer Services Award for Most Consistent Financial Provider is a company that has impressed you for providing comprehensive service, its transparent approach to rates and delivering across a range of services year in, year out. The 2013 winner is Nationwide Building Society.
One happy Nationwide customer told Moneywise: "Nationwide offers me a comprehensive service with comparable rates of interest and the feeling of an increased level of security due to its size and position in the marketplace."
MOST IMPROVED BANK
WINNER: BANK OF SCOTLAND
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SANTANDER
This year's winner of the Most Improved Bank award goes to Bank of Scotland, which experienced a 28% reduction in the number of votes it received for least trusted financial services provider compared to its performance in 2012.
MOST TRUSTED CURRENT ACCOUNT PROVIDER
HIGHLY COMMENDED: FIRST DIRECT
The winner of this award has built a really loyal band of customers, whose votes have crowned it Most Trusted Current Account Provider for four years on the trot. One survey respondent said of the 2013 winner, Smile: "I trust it and the service works. I've rarely had a problem but when I have, it sorted it out."
MOST TRUSTED CAR INSURANCE PROVIDER
HIGHLY COMMENDED: NFU MUTUAL
Moneywise readers have voted CSIS, the Civil Service Insurance Society, as the winner of Most Trusted Car Insurance Provider. Although its policies are only available to serving and former civil servants, the not-for-profit organisation's customers are particularly impressed by the quality of cover their policies provide, as well as their value for money.
MOST TRUSTED HOME INSURANCE PROVIDER
WINNER: NFU MUTUAL
HIGHLY COMMENDED: YORKSHIRE BUILDING SOCIETY
Building on its success in the car insurance market, Moneywise readers also voted NFU Mutual Most Trusted Home Insurer this year. The company prides itself on its customer focus, and survey responses included: "They are in touch with the real world and I trust them."
MOST TRUSTED MORTGAGE PROVIDER
WINNER: FIRST DIRECT
HIGHLY COMMENDED: YORKSHIRE BUILDING SOCIETY
First Direct has been voted Most Trusted Mortgage Provider for the second year in a row. One customer told Moneywise, simply: "Good service. No problems. Excellent offset mortgage."
Another said: "I have had excellent service from them ever since I transferred my current account, mortgage and savings to them."
Of the people voting for First Direct, the chief reason given was the competitiveness of its rates but survey respondents were also appreciative of its "brilliant customer service, anytime of day or night" and its staff, who are "always polite and helpful".
The lender was also highly rated by the judges of this year's Moneywise Mortgage Awards and won in two categories – Best Lender for Offset Mortgages and Best Lender for Flexible Mortgages. Judge Gareth Lowman, associate director of SPF Private Clients, highlighted the fact its competitively priced products are always available with various fee options.
It also provides fixed as well as tracker offset mortgages and its flexible mortgages offer customers the ability to make overpayments and the chance to take payment holidays.
MOST TRUSTED CREDIT CARD PROVIDER
WINNER: FIRST DIRECT
HIGHLY COMMENDED: JOHN LEWIS
Moneywise readers have voted First Direct the winner of this year's Most Trusted Credit Card Provider award. Comments included: "The customer service team were very helpful when I contacted them by telephone. The website is very easy to access and use. They have excellent rates for their gold credit card and other services."
MOST TRUSTED PERSONAL LOAN PROVIDER
HIGHLY COMMENDED: RATESETTER
For the fourth year in a row, this award has been won by Zopa – a peer-to-peer lender. This type of lending, also known as social lending, offers savers the chance to become lenders, earning higher interest rates than the banks can currently offer. Companies like Zopa and Ratesetter effectively act as a middleman, connecting those wanting to loan money with those who need to borrow it.
MOST TRUSTED FUND MANAGER
WINNER: FIRST STATE INVESTMENTS
HIGHLY COMMENDED: INVESCO PERPETUAL
Moneywise has introduced a new award this year to reinforce our belief in the importance of direct investment in funds as part of long-term financial planning. Our readers have voted First State Investments as their Most Trusted Fund Manager.
It's Scottish Oriental Smaller companies Investment Trust was highly commended in the Moneywise Investment Trust Awards in April this year with the judges highlighting First State's cautious approach and long-term investment process based on investing in high-quality companies as its secrets of success.
A way of combining a mortgage and savings so the savings “offset” and reduce the mortgage. Rather than earning interest on savings, the savings reduce the mortgage and the interest paid on the borrowing, so savings are effectively earning interest at a higher rate than most mainstream savings accounts will pay. They are also tax-efficient, as savers avoid paying tax on interest that their deposits would otherwise have earned. Offset mortgages offer the disciplined borrower a great deal of flexibility, as overpayments can be made to reduce the term or monthly mortgage repayments, which can save thousands of pounds in interest payments over the mortgage term.
The name given to a certain type of financial transaction which takes place directly between individuals or “peers” without the use of a traditional financial institution such as a bank. Various social lending websites incorporate a number of strong risk controls, and screen all potential borrowers by checking their credit history. Lenders agree to lend a specific amount for a stated return and lenders’ cash is pooled between borrowers, spreading the risk. The major social lending companies are Zopa, RateSetter, Funding Circle, Quakle and Yes-Secure.
Investment trusts are companies that invest money in other companies and whose shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange. As with unit trusts, private investors buying shares in an investment trust are buying into a diversified portfolio of assets (to reduce risk), which is managed by a professional fund manager. Investment trusts differ from unit trusts in two important ways: they are listed on the stockmarket and so are owned by their shareholders and are closed-ended funds with a finite number of shares in issue. This means the share price of investment trusts might not reflect the true value of the assets in the company (known as the net asset value, or NAV) and if the NAV value of a share is £1 and the share price in the market is 90p, the trust is said to be running a discount of 10% to NAV. But this means the investor is paying 90p to gain exposure to £1 of assets. Investment trusts can also borrow money and use this money to buy investments. This is known as gearing and a geared trust is thought to be more of an investment risk than an ungeared one.
An account opened with a clearing bank (few building societies offer current accounts) that provides the ability to draw cash (usually via a debit card) or cheques from the account. Some pay fairly minimal rates of interest if the account is in credit. Most current accounts insist your monthly income (salary or pension) is paid directly in each month and they offer a number of optional services – such as overdrafts and charge cards – which are negotiable but will incur fees.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.
This is a mutual organisation owned by its members and not by shareholders. These societies offer a range of financial services but have historically concentrated on taking deposits from savers and lending the money to borrowers as mortgages, hence the name. In the mid-1990s many societies “demutualised” and became banks. One academic study (Heffernan, 2003) found demutualised societies’ pricing on deposits and mortgages was more favourable to shareholders than to customers, with the remaining mutual building societies offering consistently better rates. In 1900, there were 2,286 building societies in the UK; in 2011, there are just 51.
An individual employed by an institution to manage an investment fund (unit trust, investment trust, pension fund or hedge fund) to meet pre-determined objectives (usually to generate capital growth or maximise income) in prescribed geographic areas or investment sectors (such as UK smaller companies, technology or commodities). The manager also carries the responsibility for general fund supervision, as well as monitoring the daily trading activity and also developing investment strategies to manage the risk profile of the fund.