BANK staff have a “shockingly poor” knowledge of cash ISAs that could be leaving some customers out of pocket, according to a consumer watchdog.
Some 85 per cent of bank and building society staff contacted by Which? failed correctly to identify the new 2015/16 Individual Savings Account limit of £15,240, and some banks had not updated their systems for their employees to look the figure up.
One of the poorest performers in the investigation was the Yorkshire Bank, which came bottom of the survey alongside the Co-operative Bank, according to Which?
Which? made 156 anonymous calls to 13 of the biggest banks and building societies in January, asking for information about how to correctly transfer an ISA from one provider to another, how much could be transferred, rules around transferring between cash and stocks and shares ISAs, the next tax year’s allowance and new Government rules on inheriting ISAs.
Posing as new customers to ask “straightforward” questions about savings limits and transfers, Which? said it found widespread confusion and poor information about long-established ISA transfer rules.
Bank staff referred Which? callers to the internet to find the answer to their question, or admitted they were not aware of stocks and shares ISAs.
Just 19 per cent of call handlers were able to correctly answer questions about new ISA inheritance rules.
The consumer group found the Co-operative Bank and Yorkshire Bank were the worst at providing accurate information, answering just 31 per cent of questions correctly.
But even the best performer, TSB, only managed to get 64 per cent of the questions right.
Chancellor George Osborne used this week’s Budget to announce new ISA savings limits, greater flexibility over withdrawing funds and Help to Buy accounts.
But as the ISA deadline approaches, the watchdog said bank and building society staff’s knowledge of cash ISAs was “shockingly poor and could be leaving customers out of pocket”.
Which? executive editor Richard Lloyd said: “It is inexcusable for so many bank staff to have such a worrying lack of knowledge about the basics of ISAs, especially when it could be costing customers dear.
“Banks should have systems in place to ensure customers can rely on them to give up-to-date and accurate information.
“With new reforms announced by the Chancellor this week, the banks must do better, starting by properly equipping their staff so customers can be confident they’re getting the right advice about how to make the most of their hard-earned savings.”
The banks included in the survey, in order of the percentage of questions they answered correctly, are:
1. TSB 64 per cent
2. KRBS 62 per cent
2=. Halifax 62 per cent
4. Post Office 53 per cent
5. Lloyds 51 per cent
6. First Direct 50 per cent
7. Barclays 47 per cent
8. Santander 44 per cent
8=. Nationwide 44 per cent
10. HSBC 42 per cent
11. NatWest 42 per cent
12. Co-operative Bank 31 per cent
13. Yorkshire Bank 31 per cent