First Direct & a social future for banking?

Here’s a personal story: for the past couple of months we have been experiencing a literal, living hell with our bank, Yorkshire Bank, who, after delivering utterly piss-poor service for years continue to cause us stress and misery as we try to resolve our litany of complaints.

So it was interesting to catch-up with an old friend last week who works with First Direct. Now although we’re not a customer it was refreshing to hear him talk about what First Direct is up to – and utterly refreshing to see a UK bank that is seriously thinking and talking about the future of banking.

As part of their campaign to highlight how far they’ve come – and where the industry is going – the Independent blog hosted some TED-esque content covering some – in my opinion – compelling issues, including:

I recommend taking a look at some of the ideas coming from First Direct.

If only Yorkshire Bank could understand “that technology is now a social channel, and banks are struggling to work out how to be social. After all, so many of them are, by nature, anti-social.” Oh, so true.

From our experience, every single contact point for Yorkshire Bank is designed to appear as if we could get in touch, but in reality they are 100% intended to stop us speaking to anyone.

One day I made over 100 phonecalls to get through to… wait for it….. the customer service team. And I was dialing a direct dial number after being asked to call the bank back. Serious.

As it happens I ended up using a social channel, Twitter, to make an impassioned plea for a contact at Yorkshire Bank or its PR agency. I got a prompt reply from their PR agency, but still no satisfactory resolution from the bank.

Another benefit of putting users at the heart of the banking experience is the potential to make them more accountable to users; in turn creating the impetus for a more ethical, less morally bankrupt industry.

As Chris Skinner writes, traditionally “Power was centralised around big institutions […] banks were no exception to this. […] If you wanted to interact with your bank, you did it very much on their terms.

The future may well see the customer take back more control in the relationship and as the demand for fairer products based on ethical, sustainable and non-exploitative investment vehicles increases the social future for banking may well achieve a greater goal.