It has been five years since the Current Account Switch Service launched to help bank customers move accounts without fear that everything would go pear-shaped.
The service, supported by the big banks and building societies, has proved a success – a rare one given the banking industry’s ability to cover itself in egg rather than in glory.
By offering assurances over how long the process will take and the smooth transition of direct debits and salary payments, it has allowed customers to move with confidence. It has also encouraged an army of challenger banks to take business off the long established big banks.
Meltdown: Many TSB customers have been left pulling their hair out as debit cards have been blocked, direct debits not processed and online access denied
Last week, Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (known in financial circles as Bacs) issued the latest switching statistics, confirming that in the first three months of this year 273,000 customers upped sticks – the highest quarterly total for two years. Encouraging, not overwhelming.
It also provided the winners and losers, albeit based on slightly older data – for the quarter ending last September. The banks attracting most net switchers were Halifax (top), Nationwide Building Society and TSB. The big net losers, predictably, were Lloyds, Barclays and NatWest (the biggest loser of all).
Although it will take Bacs an age to produce statistics for the quarter ending this June, it will be interesting to see the figures for TSB given the calamitous events of the past week triggered by a catastrophic IT meltdown.
Many TSB customers have been left pulling their hair out as debit cards have been blocked, direct debits not processed and online access denied.
Most alarmingly, some customers have been able to see details of other people’s accounts. No wonder our sister paper renamed it Totally Shambolic Bank. It is a label the bank will find hard to shake off.
While TSB has responded to the chaos by upping the interest rate it pays on current account balances, it is a gesture only.
The increase, from three to five per cent, will mean just an extra £30 a year for those who keep at least £1,500 in their account.
Small beer compared to the trauma and inconvenience the bank has inflicted on customers – and the fiasco has yet to run its course.
Two final thoughts. First, challenger banks are in general a breath of fresh air. But they tread a thin line. If they lose the trust of customers – as Tesco Bank did in late 2016 when criminals hacked into its systems and stole £2.5 million from customers – it is all downhill. Trust takes a long while to build, a moment to destroy and an age to restore.
Secondly, TSB boss Paul Pester, an individual who is quite brilliant when it comes to issuing soundbites, must come out and state he will not accept a performance bonus this year.
For him to say – as he did on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday – that it is for TSB’s remuneration committee to decide whether a bonus comes his way is unacceptable. He should just come out and say he will not accept one. Full stop. End of matter.
IT WOULD be remiss of me today to leave you without mentioning Matt Campbell who, seven days ago, died while competing in the London Marathon. He was a mere 29.
Although I did not know Matt personally, I knew his father Martin well. He was a super photographer who in 2012 encouraged me to run ten marathons in ten days around Lake Windermere for charity Brathay.
Towards the top of every hill on that tortuous 26.2-mile course, there would be Martin filming away while giving out words of encouragement. Sadly, he also died two years ago.
Matt was an exceptional runner – a sub-three hour marathoner – and a talented cook as his appearance on last year’s MasterChef: The Professionals proved. He should have been a finalist. He was running London in memory of his Dad and for Brathay, the charity Martin supported – and gave his time to – for eight wonderful years. An awful double family blow.
If you want to learn more about Brathay and the work it does helping children get a good start in life, take a look at its website – brathay.org.uk.
If you feel like donating to the charity via Matt’s charity page, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/mattcampbell-londonmarathon. And, remember, if you are a taxpayer, tick the Gift Aid box which will give a little boost to your donation.
Matt and Martin Campbell. Rest in peace.