Today, I move into my first home. It’s a big milestone, but sadly not one which I’ll share with the bank I’ve been with my whole life. When it came down to the crunch, they couldn’t deliver a truly all channel experience and lost my custom. Here’s how:
Back in the ‘70s (pre moneysupermarket.com days, and even before the internet – imagine!), you had to have savings with a bank in order to be offered a mortgage. So, when my parents bought their first home, in 1973, they opted for the building society my Mum had been with since the ‘60s). This week, they celebrate their Ruby Wedding. That’s 40 years of marriage, and yes, 40 years with the same lender: quite a testament to loyalty!
My parents opened children’s accounts for my brother and me with same building society in the early ’80s! Why? Because it was the building society that had looked after their finances successfully for decades – why change? I was sent birthday cards and they gave me a little plastic house money box which I put on my windowsill to save my 10p pocket money each week.
The savings club designed for children encouraged me to save – very responsible banking. By the time we’d survived the millennium bug, I was off to university. My building society came along too, giving me a handy £2,000 interest free overdraft and £40 credit just to keep me! A few years later (and considerably poorer), I started paying my salary into that same trusted institution. They “rewarded” me with £5 / month.
When I bought my first smartphone, they offered me an app so that they could always be there. We’d grown up together and survived four seven-year itches! In all this time, they had literally paid me to be with them. I don’t think I ever went overdrawn or had any bank charges: it can’t have been a very profitable relationship from the building society’s point of view.
This year, however, the time came for the score to even. I was ready to get my first home. And so, loyally, I followed in my parents’ footsteps and approached my building society (face-to-face) for a mortgage. Hurray! They gave me an offer in principle and off I went, with the home finder app in my hand, to turn into bricks and mortar that mini plastic house (or at least a share of the first floor).
After four months of character-building experiences of the London property market (complete with classic lines of: “central heating is very last season;” “the railway line at the back will be a great asset when it comes to selling” and “that’s not damp, it’s décor”), I finally had an offer accepted. Elated, I rang my building society to share the good news. Telephone banking agreed that this was great, but unfortunately had no record of my offer in principle as this wasn’t done over the phone originally. Oh no! I began the long application process again on the phone, but didn’t get very far as they needed all the ID documents, which I’d previously provided, again! The saga continued… my pay slip went missing, I couldn’t get the same deal I’d previously been offered and at the crucial moment, the queue was too long in the branch and I just didn’t have time.
The next day, I abandoned my thirty years of banking loyalty, went to moneysupermaket.com, found the cheapest deal and completed my application online, in one go.
This is a perfect example of how loyalty and trust can take years to build up but be lost much more quickly. Money really isn’t everything, I would have opted for the more expensive deal with my original building society, but experience is priceless. When that goes wrong, when a single organisation’s channels aren’t able to share information correctly, then both loyalty and the chance for a company finally to reap back their returns are lost.