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Big banks fare worst in consumer survey

HSBC's customer-advocacy score was a lowly 16%.

By Karen Datko Feb 16, 2010 7:25PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


One year after the financial meltdown and resulting bank bailouts, consumers have regained some trust in some financial institutions, according to a report by Forrester Research.


"But the positive sentiment is not evenly distributed," the research group said in a statement accompanying the report.


Some insurance companies, like USAA and Geico, regained some ground in the latest report, as did super-regional banks like PNC Bank, US Bank, and Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T).


"But some of the largest banks in the U.S., such as Chase and Citibank, still crowd the very bottom of the rankings," the report said. "And almost all investment firms are in the bottom half of our rankings. For the second year in a row, these wealth-management firms as a group get the worst customer-advocacy ratings overall."

Forrester's annual Customer Advocacy rankings ranks nearly 50 U.S. financial-services firms by the percentage of customers who agree that "my financial provider does what's best for me, not just its own bottom line."


The financial-services firms that rated lowest on the answer to that question are, in order:

No more than 33% of customers of these companies agreed with the statement when it came to their bank or financial- services firm.


HSBC fared the worst of all, with only 16% of its customers agreeing with the statement. Forrester said it was the lowest customer-advocacy score ever recorded in the U.S.


What could HSBC be doing to alienate so many customers? Camie, of Dayton, Ohio, is an HSBC customer by virtue of her Best Buy credit card.


"They have the worst customer service I have ever dealt with," she told "One day when I got online to check my statement, I had a late fee of $39, but I have never received my statement in the mail. I called them and they claimed that I had signed up for paperless statements when I know that I would never do that because it would make me forget."


Michelle, of Modesto, Calif., also has a Best Buy card through HSBC. "After the second statement arrived I noticed a small miscellaneous charge," she told "I looked back at the statement from the month before and there was one there too."


Michelle said she called HSBC and was told it was an "insurance charge" in case she had a hardship and couldn't pay her bill. "I never signed up for this or was made aware of it at the time of purchase," she said.


Forrester says large banks and financial institutions routinely place in the bottom of the rankings while smaller institutions rank near the top.


"Part of it is that the banks are preoccupied with their bottom line," Forrester vice president Bill Doyle told The New York Times. "They are public institutions who are in business to make money for their shareholders and inevitably, that shows to customers."

Among the best-performing institutions in the Forrester survey are credit unions. This year's survey shows 70% of credit union customers say their financial institution puts their interests first.


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