Putting customers first?

The tweet about Which?’s campaign Big Change arrived just as I was discussing basic bank accounts with a colleague.

The tweet read:  “Sales incentive culture is still damaging the banking industry, says Which?. Join the #BigChange today”.

The Campaign’s top line is:  ‘Bankers should put customers first, not sales.’

“The problem with basic bank accounts,” my colleague went on, “is that banks have no interest in them.  They make no money from them, so they actually make it really hard to open one. 

“As far as we can see you can’t open one online,” she said, “and we’ve been told that if you try to open one in a branch they just complicate matters by either trying to get you to open a current account or by trying to sell you other stuff.

“They only offer basic accounts because they have to, and they try their very best not to bother with people who actually need one.“

We were talking about basic bank accounts because around 14% of council and housing association tenants (and doubtless a much higher percentage of private tenants) don’t have bank accounts.  And when the new Universal Credit starts and housing benefit is paid directly to tenants, the easiest way to avoid getting behind with the rent will be to pay by direct debit.  From a basic bank account which has no overdraft facility and no cheque book, so no risk of going into debt.

So yes, Which?, we support your campaign, wholeheartedly. 

And as a start, let’s see banks promoting basic bank accounts – money in, money out, nothing more – so that hard-pressed families stand a slightly better chance of being able to manage their money.

Because most of the time they don’t want options, they don’t want choice – not when that choice and that option is what source of credit to use.  They just want somewhere to pay in their wages and benefits, and a direct debit facility to pay their rent or mortgage on time, and to get them a cheaper option for their energy.

Not too much to ask, surely?