Was it really only February when TSB announced the appointment of Richard Meddings as chairman, with a press release that gushed about being ‘Britain’s most recommended high street bank’ and chief executive Paul Pester effused about ‘building our new, state-of-the-art banking platform’ and ‘making banking better’ for UK customers? Happy days.
Today, the chance of TSB receiving any recommendation from its five million customers seems as likely as Pester retaining his position beyond, well, this month after seven weeks of unprecedented disruption and chaos following the bank’s move to its new platform.
Even the Treasury Select Committee believes his tenure should end. In an unprecedented move, chairman Nicky Morgan has written to Meddings stating that the committee has ‘lost confidence’ in Pester’s abilities after two appalling appearances, including one where he was accused of misleading testimony.
Pester says he hasn’t had time to think about quitting - perhaps he’s been tied up trying to access his account? Insiders claim he’s in ‘total denial’ that the crisis has been that bad.
He should talk to his customers. They don’t feel like Pester has made banking better. On the contrary, up to 1.9 million online and mobile customers were unable to access their money for extended periods, some caught sight of other customers’ account details and others faced severe financial difficulties. One couple’s imminent wedding is apparently under threat, as the groom’s re-issued credit cards are yet to arrive or work, but at least they’ve been offered £100 in compensation. Every cloud.
In the ensuing chaos, customers complained about a lack of information or support. More than 1,700 fell victim to fraudsters, who swooped on the beleaguered bank, while 370 customers who asked to switch banks discovered they had ‘died’, after TSB informed their direct debit recipients accordingly.
Meanwhile, at Spanish parent Sabadell, somebody must have overdone the sangria. A statement on its website discussed the successful completion of the ‘TSB technology migration’. Perhaps ‘successful’ means something different over there?
It does not matter what measures a bank takes to build its reputation, it’s all forgotten the moment its customers find themselves stuck in a supermarket queue on a Saturday afternoon, unable to pay for their shopping. What customers want is an explanation, an apology and a modicum of humility. If you can’t pay your rent, you don’t want to hear that the ‘vast majority’ of your peers are successfully accessing their banking services.
And what does ‘vast majority’ mean anyway? Meddings’ response to Morgan stated TSB was now functioning ‘at, or close to, normal for the majority’ of its customers - that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. A quick check through the bank’s website, which incidentally last issued a journalist update on 26 April, reveals that most services are still experiencing difficulties. TSB is no longer a challenger bank, it’s a challenging bank! It’s a wonder that only 12,500 customers have chosen to leave. But then again, maybe they’re the only ones who have managed to get through to customer services.