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Banks - does anyone recommend any

Banks - does anyone recommend any

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I tend to recommend my local natwest for local clients as I have had a very good relationship with the manager there. Barclays have been in touch but I get really frustrated by their constant cross selling. Natwest are much more discrete and I never feel harrassed by them.

Some people like the Co-Op and Santander free options. I have not used them myself but when I have seen them in action I have not been that impressed i.e. poor narrative when trying to reconcile transactions!

What are others experience. Any good recommendations/ good deals to be had?

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By The Innkeeper
19th Sep 2011 11:21


We used to bank with HSBC - no problem with the service but after some 20 years and four managers we are moving as in that time we have had no introductions whatsoever. We are in the process of moving to Barclays where the manager has given us a steady stream of introductions - a couple of them are very nice thank you. Your bank should always be asource of work - if not change

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By Moonbeam
19th Sep 2011 11:34

My Experience

When setting up a new bank account for my own limited company I found Barclays - with whom I had banked for many years as a sole trader - elusive and uninterested. When I emailed a complaint to them all I got was a response that they would get back to me quickly. Needless to say I never heard from them again.

I therefore set up an account with the Co-op. As an FSB member I don't pay any bank charges. The main drawback is that the nearest local branch is 3 miles away. When banking with Barclays I always visited the local branch nearby to pay in cheques.

A client told me he has always posted off cheques to his bank (not the Co-op) and couldn't see what the problem was. I posted off one cheque, which was credited to my account. The next envelope contained 2 cheques, which were not credited to my account. Presumably the envelope is lost in the post, and I had the aggravation of having to ask the clients to cancel the original cheques and to replace them. How lucky I am to deal with such helpful clients. The Co op bank people didn't think it necessary to investigate further, leaving me feeling very unhappy.

I am now in the process of setting up a rather complicated sounding Post Office method of paying in cheques. This takes 4-6 weeks to set up apparently. I am hoping that this is superior to the post method.


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Replying to Old Greying Accountant:
By IanRiley
19th Sep 2011 13:21


I opened one of those Co-Op FSB accounts about 6 months ago. Wholly unimpressed to be honest. I pay in through my local post office which is handy because it's about 100 yards up the road. I made one pay in of about five cheques and statred panicing when I didn't see them credited to my account. rang the bank after a week and a bit and they said the cheques must be lost and advised me to get the clients to cancel their cheques and send mw fresh ones, which I did. One client cancelled a cheque before all the cheques were credited to my account 17 (!) days after I had deposited them in the post office.  Asked for a temporary overdaft to cover the missing money but they refused.Oh and of course they charged me for the cheque that my client had stopped.

Also, i'm on my third security token after the first two failed. 

Their online banking isn't very used friendly either,

Bah humbug!


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By Old Greying Accountant
19th Sep 2011 12:22

We are looking closely at Lloyds ...

... as they seem to be in tune with business banking needs.

Natwest went downhill fast after RBS bought them, and the account managers have precious little discretion these days. What we find frustrating is you have a meeting with Natwest, you agree a way forward, but by the time they have run it past "credit" the formal offer that comes back bears no relation to what was agreed round the table.

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By sanjiro
19th Sep 2011 13:55

@Old Greying Accountant

To be honest my experience of Lloyds at the moment is exactly what you have described with Natwest. Just be aware that they are withdrawing flexibility everywhere in their system at the minute.

One that has been recommended to me recently is Handelsbanken, local managers who are responsible for all clients including corporate. I will be meeting with my local branch manager soon but know of some others who are very impressed with them.

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By Steve Holloway
19th Sep 2011 13:59

I absolutely wouldn't recommend any of them!

It has struck me for a long time that they are all pretty much useless at the basics as they are pre-occupied with trying to sell products. I can't believe there are still clients out there who would take a bank recommendation when looking for an accountant .... surely they realise it is just a reciprocal back scratching arrangement?!

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Replying to Tom 7000:
By thisistibi
19th Sep 2011 14:02


Steve Holloway wrote:

It has struck me for a long time that they are all pretty much useless at the basics as they are pre-occupied with trying to sell products. I can't believe there are still clients out there who would take a bank recommendation when looking for an accountant .... surely they realise it is just a reciprocal back scratching arrangement?!

So true.

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By Paul Scholes
19th Sep 2011 14:11

Time to drop out, vote with your feet

As mentioned on Phil's other thread I'm not their biggest fan and have had horrible experiences with all of them over the years, either via the practice or clients.

Because of their ethical policies it's a real shame the Co-Op fall so short.  My wife had her business account with them and had identical difficulties to Ian and others above.

I've had my business accounts with Barclays for 30 years and after the 4th manager in so many years (2 of whom I never met) the last one, who I had actually formed a good working relationship with and who worked with two clients, suddenly vanished and so, enough is enough.

So, I'm dropping out and have found an alternative ethical bank "Reliance", it's the old Sally Army bank and, even though I'm not religious, they are a great organisation and I know that the money will go to do good things or, at worse, I'll know more about what it does than I ever would with the monopolies. 

In case anyone else feels the same about personal money deposits then Triodos is also very good and, whilst you won't earn a fortune on any balance, they publish details of every loan they make.


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By Moonbeam
19th Sep 2011 14:13

Now Worried Sick

Ian Riley - thank you for your comments about the Post Office and the Co-op bank.

I am determined not to lose any more cheques even if it isn't my fault.

It sounds as if I need to make the trip into my local town for the cheques. This is bad news indeed and I shall start hunting for an alternative bank.

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By Monty Python
19th Sep 2011 14:55

How can anyone "recommend" a bank?

Isn't recommending a bank a bit like recommending which burglar to let into your house?


They are all as bad as one another so you might as well just use whichever has a convenient branch.


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By Fidget
19th Sep 2011 15:29

Some banks are worse than others

LTSB was one of our worst experiences. The business manager that I never met sounded about 12 years old and couldn't care less whether they lost your money through their frequent mistakes or not. Getting mistakes corrected was virtually impossible and you had to have the suicidal determination of Wily Coyote to get anything done at all.

Alliance & leicester would eventually clear the cheques we paid in after around 7 days, and once took the money back after clearing, but they arent too bad so long as you arent in a hurry.

So, I agree with all above posts that say they are all rubbish. In our area HSBC seems the least rubbish at the moment, but we have just had our regular change over of business managers so it may all change again.

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PAH Accounting Devizes Wiltshire
By Phil Hendy
19th Sep 2011 15:54

Defending the banks :-(

I know I shouldn't and it is a struggle but sometimes I do understand a banks point of view. They are generally up front and clear about charges etc.

I have had numerous clients who will say various things,

'I was only overdrawn by a few pounds for a couple of days'

'they bounced my cheque even though I told them money would go in tomorrow'

'they could see I had paid a cheque in but it hadn't cleared yet, it was always going to clear' etc. 

These are the same clients that don't pay their fees on time and manage their business less efficiently than others! In each of the my above quotes it really is the clients own fault and the charge has to be applied accordingly.



:-( What have I done!!!!

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Time for change
By Time for change
19th Sep 2011 15:55

They used to be

such PILLARS of society, now they're just PILLOCKS"!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Sep 2011 15:55

If you start from the point of view they are crap then you wont get too disappointed...

I use Santader purely because its free and their business bonds have relatively decent rates on them. Does take an age sometimes for funds to clear.

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By Ken Howard
19th Sep 2011 16:43

Santander here too

I also use the philosophy of low expectations.  As least with Santander (ex A&L) I don't have the privilege of paying them to make mistakes.  However, I've actually had few problems with them, but then again, my business banking is simple.  I've always posted cheques and can't remember them ever getting lost in the post.  I can't actually see where they could get things wrong - most in's and out's are direct via s/o and bacs.  I only send a couple of cheques per month and I can't see how a bank can get clearing a cheque wrong.  

As the other poster has touched on, the clients I have who complain most are those who I think expect too much from the bank.  I too have them complaining that they bounced cheques (rightly when no money in the bank), or wouldn't increase the overdraft (when needing money for tax because they took out too much in drawings).  I feel far too many people expect the banks to cover for mistakes made by the proprietor themselves.

Having said that, I know of people who've been treated shoddily by the banks.  

It happened to me when I was FD of a large manufacturer and NatWest dropped a bombshell of wtihdrawing a multi million pound facility literally the day before it was needed, even after months of painful negotiation with the local and regional managers who'd finally agreed to it all - head office turned it down flat when they got to hear of it.  Leaving us with no facilities until we grovelled to our previous bankers to take us on again (ironically Royal Bank of Scotland!!!).  Again with Natwest I had a client in way too deep to Natwest and agreed to start selling off parts of his business - the local manager agreed that he could use some of the proceeds to pay other creditors and tax etc., but once the biggest cash producing part of the business was sold, they reduced the overdraft facility by exactly the same amount, effecting taking the lot and leaving nothing for anyone else or to buy more desperately needed stock for other parts of the business which could have been saved.

We really need more of the new breed, like Handelsbanken - I have this dream that in 10 years time, the names of Natwest, HSBC, LloydsTSB, Halifax, Barclays etc will have disappeared from the High Street to be replaced by more traditional thinking smaller banks that are far more responsive to their customers.  It needn't be a dream - we can make it happen!  When clients ask me for advice re banks, I say, basically anyone except the High Street names - I've suggested Handelsbanken to quite a few, and co-op via FSB to plenty as well.

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By Steve Holloway
19th Sep 2011 17:18

... but Phil ....

just because they spell out how they are going to screw you over doesn't make it right when they do!! Charging £25 for a day or two overdrawn is no different to the doorstep money lenders who pray on the desperate.

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By Paul Scholes
19th Sep 2011 18:12


Ken - there was a positive posting about them by someone last month.  Are they worth considering, I have a client who wants a listening & responsive bank and from what I read they looked OK, it's just it's a big move for them as they have a £30K unsecured OD facility.


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By Martin B
20th Sep 2011 13:55


In my experience, the priority at Barclays is to 'hard sell' products and services which clients do not require. They also have very 'low' quality of staff with senior positions who have little or no idea about the real world.

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By Phillip
20th Sep 2011 15:02

@Old Greying Accountant

Be careful with Lloyds. We use BoS, now part of Lloyds.

The service is going slowly downhill since Lloyds got involved.

The latest is a new bank account we are trying to open - We started in April and the account still isn't open. If we phone them they tell us we need to speak to our account manager. He won't answer the phone to us and never calls us back if we leave a message. Email is just as bad, we get the odd reply telling us it is someone else's fault. They sent me an account number and sort code, no cheque/paying in book, two months later we are told this is the wrong number as one hasn't been issued yet.

Our currency accounts are changing and at the moment we can't transfer money into them until we get the new account numbers (they don't know when this will be). We are told to contact our account manager to arrange transfers - we would if he answered his phone.

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By darren.austin
20th Sep 2011 19:54


I recommended them on here recently and am happy to again. I have worked with managers of two different branches and both have been very professional. I have no doubt that they have the same constraints as other banks but seem more willing to spend some time listening to clients. I have a client that currently is looking to move his finance from NatWest.They have a significant borrowing requirement backed by property which is not flavour of the month. I spoke to three banks of which two turned it down without even speaking to the client to find out a little of their background, experience and requirements. Handesbanken have met with them and are looking at various proposals. Even if nothing comes of the meetings, my client appreciates the time taken by the bank to look into their requirements.

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By rogerp.aims
21st Sep 2011 11:28


Personal relationship is the key. I belong to a networking group that also has a bank manager as a member, hence I get to see my bank manager every week! I am happy to recommend his bank because if it ever screwed up for a client, I could complain to him. It is a bit of a drastic way to get good service, but it works. It is good for business as well.

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By ken.voller
21st Sep 2011 11:37

Co-op bank

Just goes to show how experiences differ!

I switched from Lloyds to the Co-op a couple of years ago because Lloyds were not particularly good and the FSB 'free banking' deal with Co-op was attractive!

I, too, was a little concerned about not having a physical bank within walking distance but have had no problems at all with banking cheques etc at the local Post Office. The internet banking system seems fine to me and, again, no problems with this.

Any time I have needed to call the helpline, the person at the other end has been very helpful and guided me through whatever it was I called them for. HMRC should take a lesson here!

Whether or not to recomment a bank? Can't say as I wouldn't give you tuppence for any of them! However, stick with what you know until you can't stick with it any longer!


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By Roy Price
21st Sep 2011 12:23

Banking experiences

In practice I am often asked 'can I recommend a bank' my reply is that I cannot.

It is impossible to have experienced all the bank's available.  The experience clients and yourself have of a bank can depend very largely on the individuals you deal with and the bank's opinion of your business, its operation and personal circumstances.

I do suggest that people shop around and find a bank and banker that they are comfortable with and gives them the best response to their business circumstances.

From experience however:

Santander have been slated for poor day to day banking tasks and time taken to clear payments.

Barclays selling of add on products and services is annoying and often done without thought.

I use HSBC and am very pleased with them.


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Replying to Old Greying Accountant:
By cfield
21st Sep 2011 13:24

Cater Allen

I always recommend Cater Allen to my clients. They are part of the Santander group now but still retain the independent ethos they had when they were Robert Fleming about 10 years ago. If you don't want a local branch, a merchant account for credit cards or loan finance, they are well worth considering.

Firstly, their internet banking is very good. No need for card readers, just log on from your own computer. Enter 3 digits from both your user ID and password and you're in. No fuss no bother. The interface is very slick and the response times fast. You can also set up regular payments very easily yourself.

Secondly, no bank charges provided you keep at least £5,000 in the account and do not exeed 200 transactions per month.

Thirdly, you get a stack of prepaid envelopes to pay in cheques, which are credited to your account about 2-3 days after posting them. I've never known any to go astray in 10 years of dealing with them.

Fourthly, you get a 7 day customer helpline which is actually staffed by human beings (from the UK) and answered quickly. No pressing loads of numbers and waiting ages. The helpline staff are always friendly and know what they're doing.

They also do Euro and USD accounts which is handy these days. Large sums can be placed on term deposit for various periods. The interest rates are nothing to shout about but no worse than other banks. Occasionally they offer some tempting long-term deals tied to stock market performance.

On the very few occasions I've had to make complaints (once because one of their call centre staff refused to send a prospective customer a prepaid envelope) they took it very seriously and made amends straight away. They are also forgiving at times of genuine mistakes, for example refunding charges where a customer goes overdrawn for only a day.

On the downside, I don't particularly like their deferred debit cards as they are treated as credit cards by some parties such as airlines and thus incur higher fees than for debit cards which are free, but that is just a minor issue.

Also, they are a bit inconvenient for receiving bank transfers from foreign clients as they have to use RBS for international clearing facilities. This sometimes confuses foreign banks as they have to quote 2 sets of sort codes and account numbers on their transfer forms. However, it is not usually a problem if you are very explicit in your payment instructions.

They even managed to maintain good customer service whilst they were owned by Abbey (which truly was an awful bank and probably the main reason why Santander is getting so much flak now).

I must declare an interest here as I am an introducer but that is my experience over 10 years of dealing with them. Had they been crap I would have kicked them into touch years ago. They compare extremely well with my experience of other banks over the same period.


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By jonsa
21st Sep 2011 15:03

Cater Allen

Another fan of Cater Allen. Same as cfield - a really good service and staffed by humans (I hate helplines usually).  I post cheques most weeks and none have ever gone astray - the bank provides prepaid envelopes.

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By RogerNeale
21st Sep 2011 15:19

It depends what you want from a bank

It all depends on what you want from a bank.

If you want a person to manage the relationship, then I would suggest Barclays or Yorkshire Bank.

If all you want is somewhere to make and receive electronic payments then I would recommend Santander. Their only drawback currently is that theyare not yet part of the "faster payments" scheme.
The benfit is that you get interest on the money in a current account.

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By beverly chester
21st Sep 2011 21:24

I don't think any of them are up to much but my experience is that they are only a good as their current manager. I find Lloyds TSB VERY hard to deal with if a client has a problem - no flexibility whatsoever even with a helpful manager. Nat West jump quickly if a client is showing any signs of getting into difficulties (I have even seen issues if a close family member has lost their job or got into difficulties). Santander take forever to process deposits. Used to be good when it was Abbey/A & L but tend to offer one interest rate and then up it on borrowing, Watchdog had major issues with them when they took over Abbey and A & L.  I have been with Abbey/Santander and A & L /Santander for 20 years but am now looking to move myself due to poor service etc despite good local staff. Haven't had much to do with Barclays recently. Post Office not very helpful at providing information although they are generally the most convenient. Nationwide offer business banking with conditions but I have never had a negative report. I do note that they are far more careful now with borrowing ratio's. HSBC currently come out most favourably in our area (Staffordhsire) and I was thinking of approaching them but this Handlesbank sounds interesting and I might investigate it. I love most things Swedish though so could be biased. Must admit I have been waiting for some of the "new" banks to come along as I don't really have a very high opinion of any of the others and find it easier not to recommend. Not too sure about the integrity of using a bank on the basis of kick backs really

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By Monty Python
21st Sep 2011 22:51


beverly chester

. I love most things Swedish though so could be biased.


Sweden - a country famous only for producing Abba & Volvo cars - and you "love" most things Swedish.  Very worrying :)


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Replying to Rachael_Power:
By Hans Zarkov
22nd Sep 2011 10:59


Monty Python wrote:

Sweden - a country famous only for producing Abba & Volvo cars - 

How about:

Alfred Nobel

Bjorn Borg

The pacemaker

The zipper



Telephone handsets


Safety matches (ideal for carrying around with sticks of dynamite)


Flat-screen monitors

3-point seatbelts




But, to counter all of that -

Ikea (I'd probably ask Borg to use his racquet to lob a stick of dynamite into our local store)

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By iscbooks
21st Sep 2011 23:16

RBS/NatWest - now at the bottom of the pile!

As an ex-employee I've experienced RBS on the inside - at times ethically, if not legally 'challenged'  - and not a bank I'd choose for my clients. They're so focused on profit that they've lost sight of anything without a £ sign in front of it. I feel sorry for the front line staff who often have the best of intentions but are severely hampered  by red tape, processes, and of course...sales targets. The majority of the longer serving business management have been replaced by younger inexpensive and inexperienced staff who know much less about business and are less reluctant to 'push' products to meet targets. Many processes have  been centralised to drive down costs. All of this has had a serverely detrimental effect on customer service.

Try opening a business account and see how long it takes - I've currently got one of my clients waiting over a month for their account number! Compare to HSBC where you can walk out of your first meeting with your account number - so in less than an hour!


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By beverly chester
21st Sep 2011 23:21

OK, well maybe you do have a point about the Volvo cars but I stand by Abba and the Swedish RAC rally drivers of Volvo cars in my day were something rather special!!!!!  The country is also rather lovely as is much of the design stuff although I am not sure we will ever cross by ferry again having been on the same seas as the Estonia when it went down in 1994 A bit scary!. 

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By Old Greying Accountant
22nd Sep 2011 15:06

The best rally drivers are Finns!

Notably Hannu Mikkola, as immortalised in this excellent hmhb song

(And he drove the best rally car of his time by far, the Audi Quattro)


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By Robert Clubb
28th Sep 2011 10:10

Only As Good As.....................

The speed and acurracy of problem solving is worth its weight in gold.

Locally the counter staff at Barclays are brilliant. However, you try opening a new account, for yourself or client, and any referal to their commercial colleagues ends in tears.

At the local NatWest, the opposite applies.

So, use your contacts.


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