Challenger banks have overtaken high-street banks in a survey ranking how satisfied people and firms are with their services amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis.
Starling Bank and Monzo were the top-ranked current account providers, while high-street lenders Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and The Co-operative Bank slipped to the bottom of the lists.
Thousands of people and small businesses rated the quality of their bank’s services after the Competition and Market’s Authority (CMA) made it compulsory for the biggest British banks to take part in the twice-yearly surveys.
Current account holders were asked how likely they would be to recommend their provider to a friend, relative or other business, and how satisfied they were with specific services including mobile banking, overdrafts and in-person branches.
Neobanks – digital-only challenger banks that have sprung up over the past decade – flew to the top of the rankings with both individuals and businesses happy with the services they have provided during a period of soaring inflation.
UK leading challengers Starling Bank and Monzo came joint first place in the overall service category for current account holders, while Starling Bank edged ahead to be the top-ranked business current account provider.
Meanwhile, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is owned by banking giant NatWest Group, fell to the bottom of the list of personal banking providers, with just 46% of customers likely to recommend it to friends and family.
Virgin Money also fell behind its competitors with just under half of customers likely to recommend the bank for its overall service quality, and the least amount of customers satisfied with its online and mobile banking services.
More than 16,000 current account holders were surveyed across Britain to provide customers with a fuller picture on how their bank compares to others.
Among small businesses, the Co-operate Bank was the lowest-rank provider with just 40% of customers likely to recommend it to other firms and less than a third who said the same about its online and mobile banking offering.
Adam Land, senior director at the CMA, said: “As the rising cost of living bites, it is important that people and businesses have the information they need to manage their money and make savings.
“These results show how banks are treating their customers at a time when many are feeling the pinch.
“When times are tough you find out who’s fighting your corner and if your bank doesn’t match up to the competition – you can vote with your feet and make a switch.”
Consumer group Which? said that good customer service has become even more critical during a time when households are facing extra cost of living pressures.
“These findings reflect Which? research, which found that challenger banks are outperforming traditional high street names when it comes to customer satisfaction”, Jenny Ross, Which?’s money editor, said.
“The banking giants in the bottom half of these rankings should take heed and up their game if they are to retain customers.”
People can use the free Current Account Switch Service, owned by retail payments provider Pay.UK, to switch banks more easily.
The CMA’s survey covered personal account providers with more than 150,000 active customers and more than 20,000 small business account holders.
It was enforced after the CMA conducted an investigation into the retail banking sector in 2016.
A spokesperson for Royal Bank of Scotland said: “We can do more to improve the experience for customers in certain aspects of our service.
“We’re investing in dedicated teams focussed on making targeted improvements for customers in order to address the areas where our service falls short of expectations.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Money said: “We are determined to provide positive experiences for our customers.
“While there is more work for us to do, we are confident that our ongoing investment in compelling customer propositions and digital innovation will deliver on that ambition.”
It added that the survey covered its entire customer base, which includes Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank customers, with the group expecting to improve its performance as more new and existing customers switch to Virgin Money services.
A spokesman for Co-operative Bank said: “We strive to continually enhance our SME customer experience to meet the needs of our customers, and we are fully committed to supporting our customers to help them manage and grow their business, therefore we expect our CMA scores to improve in the future.”