Survey reveals Belgian banks’ satisfaction crisis

Sarhan Basem
credit: reuters

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Belgian bank satisfaction drops as major banks receive below-average ratings. ING scores the lowest, while smaller banks like Argenta and NIBC excel. Calls for easier bank switching intensify.

Belgians are increasingly less satisfied with their bank and three major banks in particular rate below average. This is evident from a survey by Testaankoop.  Four years ago, Belgian banks achieved an average of 70 out of 100 in terms of satisfaction. Today, it stands only at 65 points.

How Long Do Belgians Typically Stay with Their Bank?

“Satisfaction is falling, but people still stick with their bank en masse,” says Testaankoop researcher Sebastian Stevering. “After all, more than 70 per cent of respondents have been with the same bank for twenty years. The main reason given is that people stay with the same bank, precisely because they have been a customer for so long, or because their salary is deposited into an account at that bank.”

Which Banks Scored Lowest in the Satisfaction Survey?

The low ratings of major banks such as ING, BNP Paribas Fortis and Belfius. ING gets the lowest score (52 out of 100). BNP and Belfius complete the top 3 at the bottom of the ranking with scores of around 60 points. By comparison, the bank Argenta achieved a satisfaction score of 80 out of 100 in the Testaankoop survey. Several smaller banks, which have been firmly ‘in the picture’ in recent months because they were the first to significantly increase their savings interest rates – think of NIBC and Santander – also achieved very good scores. “But internet banks Keytrade and Revolut are also doing quite well,” Stevering added.

What Is the Biggest Issue Customers Have with Banks?

“Not being able to contact someone from the bank when they have a problem. Which means that the problem is not solved,” adds Sebastian Stevering. In any case, banks – and especially the big banks – have had public opinion against them for a while: think of the savings interest rates that they only increased after considerable pressure, combined with the dissatisfaction about the closing of more and more bank branches and the closure of many ATMs. Which also resulted in the big banks being severely banned by politicians.

What Changes Does Testaankoop Propose for Banking Mobility?

According to Testaankoop, the declining satisfaction figures show that there is an urgent need to work on more “mobility” among bank customers. In other words: it must become easier to switch banks. “But now many people are afraid of the administrative hassle that comes with such a switch, especially if you have a mortgage. In short, the inconveniences that you experience today when switching banks must be removed,” says Testaankoop spokesperson Laura Clays.

How Could a Transferable Account Number Benefit Customers?

Testaankoop advocates, among other things, a “transferable account number”. So that you can simply take your account number with you when you change banks. “Then you don’t have to give everyone your new bank account.” The consumer organisation also wants to merge “the basic interest rate and loyalty bonus on savings accounts, so that savers can more easily compare the actual interest that banks offer”. Clays: “A single interest rate, as we propose, not only makes it easier and more transparent to compare. This also means that banks will not be able to propose an artificially high interest rate, which they will never offer in practice.”

And if there are insurances linked to home loans, one should be able to switch to another insurer after two years, without the interest rate being increased, according to the consumer organization. According to Testaankoop, the Belgian Competition Authority is also in favour of these measures, “which would significantly stimulate competition between banks”.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.