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Banks giving wrong advice to customers on Isa transfers

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Some of the UK's biggest high street banks are failing to give the right advice to customers on transferring and managing their cash Isas, according to the results of a 'mystery shopping' exercise.

An investigation by Which? has found that staff at many of Britain’s most prominent banks and building societies are not equipped with basic knowledge about the savings products, the Daily Mail reports.

The consumer group placed 180 calls to 15 banks and building societies asking three questions about Isas. 

HSBC, Yorkshire Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) scored the worst, with HSBC staff answering correctly just 33 per cent of the time.

Survey: Which? called 15 banks and building societies asking three questions about Isa transfers and limits.

National Savings & Investments (NS&I), Santander and the Co-operative Bank were the best performers, though even top-rated NS&I only answered correctly 72 per cent of the time.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘Banks and building societies are still falling short when it comes to providing basic information over the phone about cash Isa transfers.

‘Without reliable advice, customers could be put off from moving their money or worse, still lose out as a result of misleading information.
‘We want to see better training for frontline staff as part of the big change that’s needed in banking, so that banks put customers first.’

Which? said that HSBC scored particularly badly when asked if there were any rules about how much you can transfer – with one staff member incorrectly stating that you had to transfer a minimum of £10,000.

In six out of the 12 calls made to Yorkshire Bank, staff were not able to provide the correct annual cash Isa limit (currently £5,640), with one staff member saying there was no limit at all.

A RBS staff member told a researcher that all they needed to do to transfer their cash Isas was withdraw their funds, close the account down, and transfer it to another provider, unaware that doing so would deprive the savings of its tax-free status.

HSBC has said it will be improving its training programme following the results of the research.

A spokesman said: ‘We understand that some of our responses to Which?’s recent fieldwork research did not meet the standards expected by our customers.

‘We recognise this is not acceptable and are in the process of improving our frontline training and communications programme.

‘This will ensure that our people are able to answer any queries regarding Isas and their tax-free allowance.’

Yorkshire Bank has similarly said it will be reviewing its training procedures.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We take all feedback seriously. Our advisers are given on-going support and training and we take the appropriate actions should any gaps in training be identified.’

RBS meanwhile said that extra training had already taken place, with a statement saying: ‘At RBS/NatWest, we strive to ensure that all customers receive a high level of service.

‘Since this survey in January and in advance of increased customer interest in ISAs at this time of year, we have just completed staff training and communications to ensure that our staff have the most up to date information to best serve our customers.’

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