Banking is moving online. Over recent years the UK has witnessed the mass closure of high street banks, reducing the total number of branches in the UK from 8,974 in 2015 to 4,624 in 2021 and driving more of us towards digital-first banking, willing or not.
But how reliable are online banking services? To find out, we have analysed data from Downdetector – a real-time website monitoring service – for 18 UK banks and building societies offering current accounts.
It appears Santander customers faced the most difficulty accessing their accounts and using banking services in 2021, with Downdetector officially recording 64 different problems and outages last year across its website and app.
What’s more, Santander also has the highest number of all-time user complaints (6,635) on the web monitoring platform – higher than any other UK bank or building society. In August 2021, Santander announced plans to close 111 high-street branches in response to the ongoing shift by customers towards mobile and online banking, a long-term trend which has been accelerated by the pandemic. This has left Santander customers even more reliant on its website and app to access their money and vital banking services.
Lloyds Bank comes in close second place in our study, with 44 problems and outages logged for its website and app last year. Overall, 3,920 user complaints have been left on Lloyd’s Downdetector profile from customers experiencing issues. Only recently, Lloyds Bank was forced to issue a public apology after its online banking customers were unable to log in hours before Christmas.
In third place is TSB Bank, with Downdetector recording 38 confirmed outages or problems with its online banking services in 2021. Its profile also has 4,120 user-generated complaints – the second highest of the 18 banks studied.
Making up the rest of the top five most unreliable online banks is Halifax (35 incidents recorded) and Barclays (33 incidents recorded). The findings come as MoneySavingExpert reports almost 5,000 high street banks have shut or are set to close soon since 2015. The rate of closures has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and falling footfall on highstreets across the UK, making access to quality and secure online banking services more important than ever before.
In response to this trend, the City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is considering new rules to stop banks from shutting high street branches to ensure consumers and businesses can still access cash.
At the other end of the table, provider of the UK’s first mobile-only current account, Starling Bank, ranks as the most reliable online banking service in 2021, with Downdetector logging just one issue last year. It also has the fewest user-generated complaints left on its profile – 38.
The challenger bank, built from scratch using state-of-the-art technology allows customers to manage their money all from one app. Starling Bank has won Best British Bank four years in a row and boasts an “Excellent” rating on Trustpilot, with an average review score of 4.3 out of 5 – and it’s clear to see why.
Other disrupter banks – Monzo and Smile – are also among the most reliable as found by the study, with only three and two issues reported by Downdetector in 2021, respectively.
With our reliance on online banking services growing every year, it has been really interesting to analyse which customers are experiencing the most problems with their digital accounts.
It’s clear that many major banks continue to face outages and disruptions across their digital services, and with so much competition in the market from new online-only entrants, this could cause frustrated customers to go elsewhere.
This is just one example of how businesses need to maintain their websites’ reliability, but problems like outages and login issues can occur across all industries. At Rouge, we offer all our clients a bespoke maintenance and support package, meaning we’re on hand to keep your site firing on all cylinders.
Data collected in December 2021 for 18 major high-street and online-only banks offering current account services in the UK.
The number of incidents of outages and problems detailed by Downdetector in 2021 were recorded and on this basis the banks were ranked from highest to lowest.
According to Downdetector, a small number of users reporting a problem does not constitute a large-scale incident. To make sure that incidents are correctly represented, Downdetector calculates a baseline volume of typical problem reports for each service monitored, based on the average number of reports for that given time of day, measured over the previous year. Downdetector only reports an incident when the number of problem reports is significantly higher than the baseline.
Downdetector states it monitors and analyses signals from its own websites, social media platforms and other sources around the web to automatically detect incidents and service disruptions.
The impact of external factors, such as internet or device issues, on access to mobile and online banking services cannot be ruled out. However, some banks studied received zero or very few complaints, signalling external factors are considered by Downdetector.
Data for all-time user-generated complaints is correct as of end of December 2021. User-generated complaint data was not used as part of the ranking calculation.