In the aftermath of the banking crisis and a series of mis-selling scandals, customer confidence in the banking sector is, quite rightly, at an all time low.
In the past, people used to see banks as being at the heart of their local community. When asked nowadays people say banks put profits before people, treat customers unfairly and fail to contribute positively to wider society.
At TSB we believe the answer lies firmly in competition.
In a sector where only 2% of the population used the current account switching service last year, there has been very little impetus for banks to change their behaviours.
In our eyes, genuinely effective competition will drive a range of positive pressures on the industry. Most importantly it will drive banks to place customers at the centre of everything they do, with two potential outcomes in particular.
So how can change be brought about to give customers the kind of banking they want and deserve?
First, we think it will bring about a change in culture and a shift away from the short-term profit making mindset that led to events such as the PPI mis-selling scandal. This is because banks will start to see the competitive benefits of culture as a way to differentiate their brands – rather than simply sales.
This is why at TSB we are pioneering a new approach to retail banking based on values, behaviour and experience.
We have led the way in breaking the link between short-term profit making and financial incentives, rewarding our Partners the same percentage of salary – from CEO to bank teller based on customer service metrics – and only when the bank is in profit.
And we have done this because of the competitive advantage that we believe it will give us with customers.
Secondly, we believe more competition will introduce a much greater emphasis on providing customers with the power to make well-informed and confident choices about their bank and their financial products and services.
We have sought to address this at TSB by explaining to customers how our products work and how we make our money. We believe that this will help people understand the real costs and benefits of banking and will explode the myth that banking is free in the UK. More detail can be found on our truth and banking website.
We have also focused on transparent product design, creating products that don’t have teaser rates that will fall away after year such as our flagship current account.
In conclusion, we believe that without greater competition, the sector as a whole will not face the pressure it needs to evolve – but in a more dynamic market, the need to provide better products, be open and transparent with customers and instil the right culture and behaviour, will become priorities for UK banks.
Only then we will see the balance of power shift to customers – customers who will vote with their feet if they feel that the service and products their bank provides does not meet their expectations, as they will be safe in the knowledge that they can get a better deal elsewhere.
Paul Pester, CEO, TSB Bank