Which? calls for Big Change in banking

Which? launches a major new campaign, ‘Big Change’, today calling on the banks to put customers first not bankers, as new research shows that banking is one of the least trusted professions.

Two-thirds of people (67%) think that bankers are unlikely to lose their job if they lie or cheat, a new Which? survey found. A similar proportion think bankers are unlikely to lose their job if they failed to comply with industry codes of conduct (63%), delivered consistently poor service (64%) or received a high number of complaints from customers (64%).

Only one in 10 people (11%) say they trust bankers to act in their best interests.  More people say they distrust bankers than estate agents (65% compared to 51%) and a mere six per cent of people say they associate ethical behaviour with bankers.  Just one in ten (10%) think that bankers are well regulated.

The findings come in the wake of multiple banking scandals that have decimated consumer confidence in the banking industry, and highlight the urgent need for fundamental change to banking culture and practices.

Which? today launches a major new campaign ‘Big Change’ to make the banks work for customers, not bankers.

The public can support the campaign by signing the Big Change’ pledge. ‘Big Change’ is calling for:

>  Bankers to put customers first, not sales – with pay and bonus schemes that prioritise customer service over sales.

>  Bankers to meet professional standards and comply with a code of conduct - enforced by a professional standards body independent of the banking industry, with individuals required to comply with a code of conduct like the medical profession and struck off for malpractice, and bankers at the most senior levels to have compulsory qualifications and training in ethical behaviour and resolving conflicts of interest.

Bankers punished for mis-selling and bad practice – with senior executives held accountable for mis-selling and poor conduct, stronger criminal sanctions up to board level if they have presided over corrupt practices, and bonuses to be clawed back in the event of mis-selling.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

“We thought we’d seen banking at its lowest point when the public were forced to bail out the banks but since then we’ve seen the libor rate-rigging scandal and continued mis-selling.  All the while the bankers who presided over corruption continue to enjoy hugely inflated pay and bonuses.

“Consumers are continually being short changed – we need to see Big Change in banking now.  Customer service should come before sales, standards and ethics must improve, and bankers must be held to account . We want banks for customers, not bankers.”

In December, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards will recommend how to fix banking culture.

Which? is calling for the Commission, the banks, the regulators and the Government to listen to the public and make sure consumers’ best interests are at the heart of the reforms that so desperately need to be made.

We are urging the public to show the inquiry they have had enough of the banks’ bad behaviour by joining our campaign.

Campaign group 38 Degrees are backing ‘Big Change’. Executive Director, David Babbs said:

“38 Degrees members have made it clear it’s time for big change in banking.  In our last banking poll members voted to push for a tough inquiry, better regulation, proper punishments, and banks that works for customers, not just bankers.

“Teaming up with Which? will help our million plus members get the big change they want.”

Notes to editors:  

Populus interviewed a random sample of 2060 GB adults aged 18+ online between 17th and 19th August 2012.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all GB adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Consumers when asked the extent to which they trust or do not trust each of the following professions to act in their best interest:

Trust Don’t trust
Nurses

82%

4%

Doctors

80%

6%

Teachers

69%

7%

Engineers

56%

6%

Lawyers

35%

30%

Accountants

29%

28%

Civil servants

25%

27%

Builders

19%

35%

Estate Agents

11%

51%

Bankers

11%

65%

Journalists

7%

67%

Politicians

7%

72%

Consumers when asked how likely, by profession, would someone be removed from their position:

Failed to comply with industry codes of conduct/ethics Lied or cheated Delivered consistently poor service Received a high number of complaints from customers/ clients
Nurses

79%

71%

73%

71%

Doctors

78%

69%

68%

68%

Teachers

74%

63%

61%

64%

Lawyers

64%

50%

53%

50%

Engineers

63%

50%

61%

57%

Accountants

52%

46%

47%

46%

Civil servants

44%

38%

37%

37%

Builders

36%

26%

36%

39%

Estate Agents

29%

24%

30%

34%

Bankers

29%

26%

28%

28%

Journalists

28%

20%

31%

27%

Politicians

26%

22%

23%

26%

Consumers have expressed their lack of trust in regulation, and the training and qualifications of bankers.

The survey reveals:

·   Just one in ten (10%) think that bankers are well regulated.

·   One in five (21%) think that bankers are ‘properly trained and qualified’, compared to 59% for accountants and 69% for lawyers.

In a previous survey we found that 60% of people think that the behaviour of UK banks has got worse since the credit crunch and 84% of people don’t think that banks have done enough to change the banking industry to ensure another credit crunch does not happen again. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2000 GB adults online between 3rd and 5th August 2012.

Which? has submitted written evidence to Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, led by Andrew Tyrie.

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