The digital age marches onwards: customer service and centralisation

Last month saw the introduction of the Banking Reform Bill in Parliament, following the recommendations of the Vickers Report in September 2011. Most of the media coverage centred on the banks needing to ring-fence their retail operations from their investment banking divisions, but will there be any downstream benefits to consumers? George Osborne has spoken about his desire to open up the banking payment networks in the UK to competition as well as improving account switching, which was started by the previous Government, writes Paul Bartholomew-Keen

Last month saw the introduction of the Banking Reform Bill in Parliament, following the recommendations of the Vickers Report in September 2011.

Most of the media coverage centred on the banks needing to ring-fence their retail operations from their investment banking divisions, but will there be any downstream benefits to consumers?

George Osborne has spoken about his desire to open up the banking payment networks in the UK to competition as well as improving account switching, which was started by the previous Government.

However, much of this activity is the result of the credit crunch and Government bailouts, rather than banks looking at improving their overall service to customers and businesses. Having worked in Barclays retail and business banking for much of my early career in the mid-eighties to mid-nineties, I remember it being very unusual for customers wanting to move to a different bank. Many of the operational and day-to-day service functions for customers were dealt with at local branch level.

I’m not suggesting in a digital age that we need to return to a decentralised customer service model for banking, but I think the current service model is disjointed and makes customers feel disenfranchised. When a customer feels disenfranchised they generally want to look elsewhere, although when it comes to today’s banking they often face similar service experiences wherever they look.

If banks can redress the balance of joined up customer service and centralisation as the digital age marches onwards, then we can all think less about how quickly we need to move our accounts.