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Are Private Banks a Realistic Alternative to High Street Banks?

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by London based private bankers, Duncan Lawrie, has confirmed the relentless deterioration in the public’s perception of the main high street banks in the wake of events such as the Libor fixing scandal, the computer problems at Natwest and the exposure of the bonus culture which appears to dominate the higher echelons of the Big Four.

Around 71-% of HNWIs (high net worth individuals with investable assets over £250k) view the big banks as being dishonest. As well as this, nearly 80% of respondents from the Duncan Lawrie Private Bank survey believe that regulatory bodies will never be able to make banking immune to the types of headlines we have seen recently.

These concerns have coincided with a general nostalgia amongst bank customers for the sort of personal service that used to be provided before the days of call centres and computerised credit scoring. Even the bank staff that people interact with in today’s branches don’t seem to be acting objectively in view of the revelation, in the case of Lloyds at least, they are awarded points for every product or service that they sell to unsuspecting customers.

The upshot, according to the Duncan Lawrie Private Bank survey, is that a fifth of bank customers are already actively looking at alternatives. It seems that customers of the Big Four would prefer banks that are owned by their customers (36%) and have a definitive split between their retail and investment activities (34%). YouGov further reports that customers would prefer banks that have a far more personal service which is less obviously reliant on a de-humanised approach (e.g. computers) (76%).

While the mutual building societies can offer a limited solution, another option available to HNWIs is the independent private bank (as opposed to the private banking arms of the high street banks). Many bank customers tend to overlook these because they are suffering from the misapprehension that they only open accounts for multi-millionaires whereas, in actual fact, they will happily consider anybody with an annual income or with net investable assets of over £ 250,000.

In the case of Duncan Lawrie Private Bank, for example, clients enjoy all the traditional qualities of a personal banking service with clients having a direct number to call and the opportunity of meetings at either your home or office. There are no call centres which leave you listening to Mozart or tapping out numbers and hash keys. As for Bank Managers being incentivised to push particular financial products or services, such a concept would be total anathema to an organisation which relies heavily on absolute integrity for client retention and its long term prosperity.

Even its ownership is independent from the rest of the banking establishment with a parent company, Camellia Plc, being a fully listed trading conglomerate with over 73,000 employees worldwide.

The information gathered by the survey has been put into a creative infographic which provides some interesting insights into the UK banking industry and the public’s opinion on UK banks.

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