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As I See It

Banks’ customer first pledge just isn’t happening

Terry MurdenRoyal Bank of Scotland chief executive Ross McEwan was no sooner celebrating the settlement with US authorities over its misconduct offences than he was landed with a report stating that his bank ranks the worst in Britain for customer service.

Fewer than half of its customers would recommend it to friends and family, according to a league table published for the first time. It is also at the bottom for business banking.

The Competition and Markets Authority has published the data in a bid to increase competition in the sector, and this should be a reminder to the bank’s board that their regular claim to be putting the customer first simply isn’t working.

Perhaps I should declare an interest. I’m an RBS business bank customer and I have to add my own experiences to the list of those who feel disgruntled. Having been promised help if I signed up with the bank I expected more than one meeting in four years. Since that initial introduction (when I was cajoled into signing up for other RBS services) I’ve had next to no contact at all. Within weeks my ‘relationship manager’ was moved to another position and I couldn’t name my new one. I struggled to contact anyone by phone when my browser refused to access my online account.

As for the branch closures, it is time Mr McEwan spent some time in the queues he has created. One customer I got chatting to last week had come into central Edinburgh from Davidsons Mains as her two local branches had closed. She had driven in, struggled to find a parking space and spent more time sorting out a simple transaction than should be necessary.

RBS is joint bottom of the personal banking league table, along with Clydesdale whose new CEO David Duffy is basking in the ‘benefits’ of the forthcoming merger with Virgin Money.

He, of course, arrived from Ireland where his pay was capped by the government. He has seen his salary rocket since arriving in Glasgow in 2015 from Allied Irish Bank where he earned €425,000 (£380,000 at today’s exchange rate). Last year he took home £2 million because obviously he doing a much better job at the Clydesdale.

Well, that’s not what his customers are telling him and his board who intend to ditch the historic Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank names in favour of the Virgin Money brand which, it turns out, is more popular. For unexplained reasons Virgin doesn’t appear in the CMA’s customer service list, so we can’t be sure just how much its customers love it.

Even so, many of them will have to hope Mr Duffy doesn’t bring Clydesdale’s poor customer relations with him when the banks combine. Oh, and they should also be prepared for more branch closures. That’ll go down well.


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