NatWest, Nationwide and Yorkshire scoop top Moneywise awards
Mostly that trust is rewarded; our money is nurtured, we're sold products that protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our homes, and gradually we build our fortunes. But sometimes, that trust is broken.
Pound signs flash before the bank manager's eyes and we're treated like a commodity and all too often are left frustrated when the computer says ‘no'.
So who can you turn to? Who will reward your loyalty and value your custom while ensuring your money is working as hard as it possibly can for you?
The Moneywise Customer Services Awards exist to answer these very questions and help you choose the providers you can really rely on. Here are the top three from this year's awards.
MOST TRUSTED MAINSTREAM BANK
0800 200 400
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.
The award is designed to reflect the fact that the world and the banking industry has moved on since 2009 and that a number of the bigger banks, though not all it would appear, have made significant strides as they attempt to effectively engage their 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.
One enthusiastic fan told us: "They have a great range of products and services – like the blackberry app and the emergency cash and get cash service."
Another said: "They have always provided outstanding customer service both in branch and on the telephone. Their online services are vast and easy to navigate."
One survey respondent wrote: "Nearly 20 years of banking with them - they have never let me down and have always dealt quickly with any problems such as card fraud.
Indeed, an interesting element to the comments we received about NatWest, is that just as many of them came from long-standing customers as from more recent clients. A typical response reads: "dealt with them for 50 years and they have given good service. Any small problems have been resolved quickly and correctly."
NatWest beat HSBC to the award, but in the process it has thrown down the gauntlet to all of its main competitors. As switching accounts become easier from September 2013, it is customer service and trust that will see some banks edge ahead of the rest – NatWest is well-placed to be the one in front.
MOST CONSISTENT FINANCIAL PROVIDER
WINNER: NATIONWIDE BUILDING SOCIETY
HIGHLY COMMENDED: FIRST DIRECT
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: "With the majority of banks in the media for fixing rates and mis-selling products, my trust in bigger banks was diminished. But 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."
Another survey respondent said: "I have been with Nationwide for years and always get good service, whether it be at the desk, counter or in an office, and the staff always appear keen to help you."
Another said: "Nationwide has always treated me and my money with respect and any query I have had has been promptly dealt with."
First Direct was highly commended in the category. One of its customers told Moneywise: "First Direct is always helpful. Its call centre is UK-based and it's easy to do business with." Another added: "Any questions or problems are dealt with instantly by real people, 24 hours a day."
MOST TRUSTED FINANCIAL SERVICE PROVIDER IN BRITAIN
WINNER: YORKSHIRE BUILDING SOCIETY
0845 1 200 100
HIGHLY COMMENDED: SMILE
Moving onto the most prestigious award in 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, is the title of Most Trusted Financial Provider In Britain. 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."
Another said: "YBS actually has ethics and genuinely tries to do the best by the customer rather than just sell, sell, sell. I trust that it's safer than most companies and I can keep track of my accounts easily."
And it seems great service customer service is on offer up and down the country with one Yorkshire resident and YBS customer telling us that he is proud to use a local company to look after his money that also boasts impressive customer service, as well as a Southerner singing the praises of their own local branch. The respondent said: "Branch staff in Sutton, Surrey, care. They are so helpful and always nice when we pop in the branch and when they see us around Sutton."
Highly commended in the category was Smile, which was complimented on its "ethical approach to banking" and superior customer service. One survey respondent said of Smile: "I don't ever feel that it is looking out for its own bonuses rather than customer care and environmental concerns."
The practice of a dishonest salesperson misrepresenting or misleading an investor about the characteristics of a product or service. For example, selling a person with no dependants a whole-of-life policy. There have been notable mis-selling scandals in the past, including endowment policies tied to mortgages, employees persuaded to leave final salary pensions in favour of money purchase pensions (which paid large commissions to salespeople) and payment protection insurance. There is no legal definition of mis-selling; rather the Financial Services Authority (FSA) issues clarifying guidelines and hopes companies comply with them.
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.