Do you love your bank?
11 May 2004 - Moneyweb
The level of service provided by South Africa's banks is apparently getting better. Well, this is one interpretation of the results of a survey by independent research company, Markinor, which found that in 2002, one in six people interviewed had cause to complain to their banks, whereas in 2003, the number was only one in nine.This means that in 2002, approximately 2,3m people had cause to complain, compared to 1,5m people who were prepared to do so in 2003, an improvement of more than 800 000.
Unconvinced of the results (due possibly to a horrific home loan incident which I recently experienced) I conducted a quick office survey. Besides the few respondents who immediately turned angry purple at the very mention of the words 'bank service levels', the most believed that their banks were delivering a better service than they did a few years ago, and do not forget, these are journalists - generally quiet a critical bunch.
There was one respondent in my poll who said his bank still made a lot of mistakes, but that they were all in his favour and as such, he saw no reason to complain.
Still, 1,5m is a lot of potential complaints. One would think that the banking ombudsman would be flooded by unhappy customers, looking to him for some sort of recourse against their banks.
Ombudsman for Banking Services, Neville Melville, believes that the manner in which local banks now deal with customer complaints has improved dramatically. He says that the rate and magnitude of change in the banking industry since he took office in 2000 has been overwhelming.
He commented that there has been a definite change in the attitudes of the banks, which was perhaps attributable in part to the demise of Saambou and BoE banks. "The banks now realise just how vulnerable they are to negative public perception or sentiment," says Melville.
Nevertheless, at a lavish function held in Johannesburg on Tuesday he said that the banking ombudsman's office had opened more than 500 additional files in 2003 than it had in 2002.
For the first time in its four-year history, the Ombudsman announced the number of complaints per bank. He did however, urge caution in the interpretation of these figures. "It is the natural result that the larger banks will produce the highest number of complaints by virtue of their market share. The press, industry and consumers are warned not to read too much into the breakdown."
In terms of the 2003 annual report, Absa had the highest number of files opened against it (704), followed by Standard bank (624), Nedbank (495) and FNB (358). Between them, these four banks counted for more than 90% of the files opened.
He also confirmed that R11,1m was recovered from the banks and passed to complainants during the year, an increase of R2,32m compared to 2002. For some reason, Melville seemed particularly pleased by the fact that it took an average of only 83 days to finalise a file, but according to Melville, this is a 77% improvement from 2002, and is up there in terms of international practice.
The balance between decisions for the bank and for the complainant remained steady, with 47% going for the bank and 53% going for the complainant.