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Opinion > Masthaven

Why specialist banks can drive a renaissance in customer loyalty

Jon Hall, managing director at Masthaven | 07:27 Wednesday 5th September 2018

Is banking loyalty dead? I’d like to think not, but grab some research reports on customer allegiance to mainstream banks and it’ll make for some pretty grim reading.

Over the past few years, high street ‘loyalty’ has become a byword for ‘losing out’, as customers who choose to stick with the same bank over and over do not get value but, instead, poor interest rates and little return.

Add to that a myopic, one-dimensional set of mainstream banks and you have a playing field increasingly dominated by customers rapidly moving from big bank to big bank, ‘ditching and switching’ once those better rates become, well, less better.

‘You’re not helping me – why should I help you?’ is the perceived refrain from the customer to one of the big four. And who can blame them?

The thing is, today’s customer wants something different from their bank: more flexibility, diversity, a focus on their actual needs. And, in my opinion, this is something they don’t get from the high street.

So, who will drive loyalty in banking? The answer, I think, lies in the role of the specialist bank. Here are three reasons why.

Real products

What do banks mean when they say they offer ‘real products’? For me, it’s quite simple: products that are integrated into the lives of the customer. Products that solve problems people face every day. At Masthaven, for example, this means a whole range of things, including mortgages tailored for the self-employed (who often are not catered for on the high street), development finance for housebuilders locked out of mainstream funding channels and savings accounts that allow customers – not their bank – to choose what to do with their funds on maturity.

Personalisation and flexibility

Today’s customer craves flexibility from their bank. They don’t want identikit products, devoid of variety, that apply only to a certain consumer demographic. And they don’t want to be ignored by a bank simply because they don’t meet certain requirements.

Specialist lenders throw the tick boxes out of the window and take time to look at the person behind the application – not just the application itself. And they make flexibility standard – with, for example, a more progressive approach to impaired credit than some mainstream banks have.

A human approach

Where have all the humans gone? Technology has its place, but I’m concerned about how many banking functions are being replaced by digital processes. Automated bots for customer service, for example, mean the human element is being stripped back – and this has knock-on effects for loyalty.

Finance, in whatever form it takes, is personal. So, when a customer wants to speak to their bank about their money, they don’t want an auto response. They want to speak to a proper person. Specialist banks, with smaller customer numbers and underwriters used for complex cases, are well placed to meet this need.

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