Customers prefer building societies and other mutuals

In just three months, consumer views of the service they receive from banks and building societies have swung markedly in favour of building societies and other mutual lenders and deposit takers.

GfK NOP researched seven core service factors across around 2,000 UK consumers in early May and again in late July. The results show a widening gap which has opened up in a very short time, with consumer views almost certainly being affected by recent bank press coverage.

Building societies and other mutuals now outscore plc banks across all of these customer service factors by a greater margin than in May. The measure is a 'net agreement score' which is the difference in the net positive responses between banks and mutuals. There has been a particularly notable increase in the positive margin across factors such as, feeling that money is safe with a provider, up almost nine percentage points, providers being open and honest, up by eight percentage points and consumers feeling valued, up by seven percentage points.

A new question about ethical standards was also added to the July survey. It showed that 62 per cent of customers agreed that mutuals had high ethical standards, with ten per cent taking the opposite view. Banks faired less well, with 50 per cent of customers agreeing and 20 per cent disagreeing that their provider had high ethical standards.

Commenting on the results, Hilary McVitty, BSA Head of External Affairs, said: "We were not surprised to see that consumers' views had changed in these three months, but we were rather taken aback by the degree of movement. Strong feelings are clearly being expressed here by consumers. These views are being backed up by action by more than a few, as evidenced by the sustained increase in mortgage lending and a healthy inflow of retail deposits in July announced today. Whilst mutuals are currently benefiting, their attention is not just on the present, but the future and continuing to deliver the products that UK consumers want with the service and behaviors that they expect."

Building societies and mutuals are now well established lenders and mortgage advice can often assist as to who can offer the most appropriate product and service.