Smart Money People reveal First Direct as Britain’s favourite bank

The inaugural British Bank Awards, which harnessed the opinions of over 500 Smart Money People reviewers, placed First Direct firmly as Britain’s favourite bank, winning top place in five out of seven categories.

Scooping the accolades ‘Best British Bank’, ‘Most Recommended Bank’, ‘Best Customer Service’, ‘Best Value for Money’ and ‘Best Current Account’ with its 1st Account, the internet and telephone-only bank proved customers don’t need to step into a branch to receive exceptional service.

Other winners included Barclays in ‘Best Business Banking’, while Barclaycard were named ‘Best Credit Card Provider.’

HSBC bombed in the Awards, taking bottom place in the overall league scoring just 3.2 out of 5. In fact, HSBC placed bottom of almost all categories, with one notable exception being ‘Best Business Banking Provider’ where they were placed as runner-up.

Interestingly, customers also provided anecdotal information on what they like and don’t like from their financial service providers. Despite negativity in the financial services industry following a recent Which? report highlighting packaged accounts are ‘failing to deliver’,Smart Money People reviewers were 20% more satisfied with packaged accounts than basic current accounts. 28% of all current account reviews were for packaged accounts.

Despite traditional apathy within the market, it seems the Government’s switching scheme may be working with exceptional satisfaction ratings of 97% among switchers. In comparison, non-switchers had 70% satisfaction ratings, and across all products, 64% of all respondents felt fairly treated.

With the ‘big four’ banks controlling 85% of all UK business current accounts, the Awards also demonstrated that 23% of those polled were unhappy with their business accounts. This was the poorest rated product.

Good customer service remains an important value driver with 38% of customers highlighting its importance and the top three causes of customer anger are bad customer service (42%), lack of convenience (22%) and product features (15%).

Customers cited that although it is essential, online security can be ‘tedious’ and many like social media with those customers using Twitter showing overall satisfaction levels of 87%.

Mike Fotis founder of Smart Money People said: “We launched the British Bank Awards because we wanted to gather some valuable insight into how people feel about their banks and what the drivers are for making them choose one financial institution or product over the other – the results have been a real eye-opener.

“The near clean sweep by First Direct hints at the declining role of branches, but proves that exceptional customer service is still really valued, and remains a strong differentiator. Most interestingly, the anecdotal information from reviewers paints a very different picture to what we were anticipating; namely packaged account satisfaction is high, business accounts are unloved and switching banks has never been easier or more beneficial!

“We know that today’s consumer is savvier than ever before but the Award results really demonstrate how far our banking habits have evolved. As a nation we are much more confident banking online and via the telephone and we’re not prepared to put up with the failings of the larger more-established banks when there are so many serious alternatives available.”

The average overall rating across the banking industry was 3.7/5 with only three banks achieving an overall rating higher than 4. First Direct, however, achieved an exceptional 4.9 whilst HSBC came out at the bottom of the league table with only 3.2/5.

One lucky reviewer, Sarah Hendriks won the British Bank Awards’ prize for best review, receiving GBP200 for her opinion on First Direct. Sarah switched originally to take advantage of a GBP125 incentive. She posted: “Although they don’t have the face-to-face availability of some banks, their phone service is superb, not to mention their products.

“You get to speak to a real person who is knowledgeable about what they have and how it works for you and, wait for it… helpful!”

Smart Money People launched in October 2014 and is attracting a growing number of supporters who are championing the site as ‘Trip Advisor for financial services’.

Mike concluded: “We hope to make the British Bank Awards an annual barometer that people can refer to and make informed decisions on which financial products and institutions they choose to use. It may also prove a valuable resource for those banks that haven’t performed as well as they should have!”