Very sadly, in their “wisdom” Co-operative Bank have decided to close our town’s Britannia Building Society branch and, as this is where my daughter’s account is held and she really does need somewhere with a local branch to pay in and withdraw money, we’ve had to close her account and look for somewhere else to put her money.
Our last trip to Britannia was very sad. The lady there had red eyes and said she had spent the latter part of the week, since the news of the forthcoming closure was made public, closing accounts and saying goodbye to people. As she’s worked there for the past 30 years and isn’t sure whether or not she’ll be made redundant, you can understand how she’s feeling.
We left, armed with a cheque which my daughter wanted to get paid into a new account as soon as possible. Despite the sadness of leaving Britannia, she felt quite positive and was looking forward to seeing what the banks could offer her. Admittedly it’s not a huge cheque given that my daughter took out money before Christmas and then again in the new year to go shopping in the sales, but it is a cheque nevertheless and there is the added incentive for the bank that my nan has decided to make regular payments into my daughter’s new account. We thought they’d be biting her arm off to have her as a new customer….
We did have a limited number of places to look at, not living in a city. The following is what we found from a quick trip around the banks we have in town, on a Saturday morning, and the opinions are from the point of view of how we found the staff rather than based on the quality of accounts on offer. As my husband and I don’t use any of these local banks ourselves, I was completely unbiased and, like my daughter, was making decisions on impressions made on the day.
We did consider the local Plough & Share scheme but as they are also only open on a Monday at present between 1 and 3 it would mean me running my daughter’s account as she doesn’t leave school until after 3. They are a fantastic and good ethical choice otherwise in my opinion.
HSBC in our town don’t open at all on a Saturday. As my daughter and her friends often decide last minute to catch a train into the city to go on a spending spree this put her off immediately. It’s a bit of a shame as she’d been into the bank with my mother and was quite keen to go in there as it was familiar to her.
We thought of the Post Office but the queue was doubled up inside and then out of the door.
We tried Santander but the ladies in there started off by standing in the background chatting to each other and then, when one did come to speak to us, she talked so fast we weren’t really able to catch what she said, she left us no time to ask questions just told us to take the paperwork, read it and come back, and talked about my daughter rather than to her. They didn’t ask if she had money to invest or whether she needed a savings or current account.
Barclays have an undercover lobby to walk through which had the smell of a toilet so daughter wouldn’t even go in!!
Lloyds Bank were interested in taking her money but only if someone introduced her as a customer. When they found out that my husband and I weren’t already customers of theirs, the attention immediately passed from my daughter to me and trying to sell me their current and savings accounts so that I could then introduce my daughter. Presumably this would be after someone had introduced us? Again my daughter wasn’t asked what sort of account she needed but they did say that an advisor would be able to help her with that if we could find someone to introduce her/us. They said I would need MY passport and driving licence – neither of which I have. This would apparently pose a problem. They did tell her that she would probably have a cashpoint card and when she said she had no idea what that was as she’d never had one before, they said I would be able to help her with that….
Next we tried NatWest. Daughter was initially put off as it does look a bit old-fashioned and forbidding from outside but, honestly, we were running short on options by then. But what a warm welcome! It was a young (compared to me!) girl behind the counter who was backed up by other colleagues who weren’t serving at the time and all of them spoke only to my daughter. They asked her what she was interested in and, given that she wanted to pay in her cheque and also had the regular savings from nan, they suggested having 2 accounts (and at this point showed her the latest NatWest piggy, which may well have swayed the decision!). We were invited to make an appointment and when I didn’t have my diary with me, my daughter was given a card with their details. I would need to come along but only needed to bring a household bill to prove our address and my daughter her birth certificate to prove her identity. We left with leaflets, details of their website for further information if we needed it, an assurance that a member of their staff would explain cashpoint cards to my daughter and much more a positive feeling.
All in all I have to say I was quite shocked and disappointed by our experiences. After all the bad press that banks receive I’d have thought they’d be interested in gaining new customers at an early age and encouraging them to use their accounts properly. What a shame that, other than the NatWest Bank, the most positive, polite and friendly person was the lady from Britannia who stands to lose her job.