Save, make, understand money


Banks forced to explain low savings rates to MPs

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Some high street banks pay savers as little as 0.9% interest despite the Bank of England base rate reaching 5%.

Earlier this month, the treasury committee asked the chief executives of the UK’s largest banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest – if all their savings products provide “fair value” to customers, whether customer inertia is being exploited and what steps they’re taking to notify savers of higher rates available.

The banks named all offered easy access savings accounts paying between 0.9% and 1.75%, while the Bank of England base rate is currently 5%.

The banks have now provided written responses to the committee’s questions.

What do the banks say?


Matt Hammerstein, Barclays UK chief executive, admitted that some of the bank’s customers had moved their money elsewhere. He said Barclays had attracted £91bn in savings over the past year, but lost £105bn in customer deposits over the same period.

“We do not see customer ‘inertia’ among our savings customers,” he said, and admitted that “a significant number of Barclays savings customers are shopping around and hold their balances elsewhere”.


Ian Stuart, HSBC chief executive, said the bank offered “a broad suite of savings products to support different goals, all of which treat new and existing customers in the same way with respect to interest rates.”

Sturt added: “Our products offer a range of different interest rates which allow customers differing degrees of flexibility in accessing their savings.”

Stuart’s letter also highlighted several rate increases to accounts in the past year. These included the HSBC UK Online Bonus Saver which pays 4%, HSBC’s Regular Saver which pays 5% and the bank’s Fixed Rate Saver which also pays 5%.

But HSBC’s easy access accounts pay less than these rates. Its Flexible Saver pays 1.75% and Premier Saver 2%, rates which Stuart said reflect the “flexibility” they offer.


Charlie Nunn, Lloyds Banking Group chief executive, said the bank was writing to customers who could benefit from “higher earning products within our range” and was testing whether sending text messages would improve engagement.

He wrote: “We recognise that a lack of customer engagement can lead to customers missing the latest products or offers. Supporting and engaging these customers has been a strong focus of ours and our improved customer engagement campaign will further support customers to meet their financial needs.”


NatWest chief executive officer Alison Rose said the bank paid savings rates of up to 5.90% on its two-year fixed product, and 6% (on up to £5,000) on its Digital Regular Saver.

She said the bank was also “taking steps to address the risk of customer inertia, including (where marketing permissions allow) actively strengthening customers’ understanding of alternatives where they have high credit balances on current and/or instant access savings accounts.”

Could the regulator act?

In a letter to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the treasury committee asked about the incoming “consumer duty” – a requirement for firms to always act in good faith and deliver “fair value” for their customers.

The regulator was asked how “fair value” will be assessed, what action it can take if firms do not comply with the consumer duty, and how it will judge whether banks are making enough effort to encourage savers to switch to higher rates.

In response, FCA chief executive Nikhil Rathi told MPs that the regulator would take “a range of factors and metrics into account” when determining whether banks were offering fair value for savers.

Harriett Baldwin MP, chair of the treasury committee, said: “If the high street banks continue to pay poor savings rates on their instant access accounts, they should make sure their customers know that better rates are available. Given that the Government, regulator and governor of the Bank of England agree with the committee that action is required, the time for weak excuses is over.

“We thank the banks and the regulator for taking the time to respond to our letters. This is a topic of utmost interest to our committee and one we will continue to monitor closely, especially when the banks report their half year results in the coming weeks.”