Newest Review: ... Was staying with a friend up north for a couple of weeks, returned home to a few letters telling me I had an unauthorised overdraft - b... more
Good Bank Becoming Great, Especially If You Have Poor Credit etc....
Member Name: gf6141a20
Advantages: Basic account will have a card you can use to pay for things online (no overdraft though!)
Disadvantages: Can be a little dearer than some, but generally worth it for the service.
I know we all like history, so let's get right into the nitty gritty of the history behind the rise of Clydesdale Bank.
Clydesdale Bank was founded in 1838 with a head office in Glasgow and a single branch in Edinburgh. Since this original format, they have grown to become one of the biggest banks in Scotland. They even issue their own notes!
Indeed, Clydesdale was one of the pioneers of the cheque guarantee card, personal loans and mobile branches.
As the bank's early profits were generated from Scottish traders in the 19th century, they grew to know what business was like and that customers needed to be treated well. The implementation of the above options was designed to help these traders to expand their business. As they grew, so did the accounts and therefore, so did the bank.
Having set its roots in Scotland with over 180 branches, Clydesdale has also now moved into London and the North of England. To ensure service and accessability for its modern day travelling customers, they also have ATM machines throughout the UK that allow customers to change details on their account as well as simply withdraw cash.
The bank has also committed to investment in real branches along with extensive online and telephone services. A big plus to those who are tired of seeing their local branch close.
Since 1987, the bank has been a member of the National Australia Bank, an international financial services group which at Sept 05 had assets of more than £180 billion.
Despite these links, they remain very much a Scottish bank and get involved in Scottish life as a good Scottish company would. Local issues are supported and local customer expectations are met through asking their customers what they want, and then trying to provide it on a local scale (if it is not nationally viable).
Clydesdale Bank PLC subscribes to the Banking code and for those who wish to know, it is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
SO WHAT DO THEY OFFER?:
Well, I have only got experience of the company as a personal banker. This is what most of you will be interested in at a guess. In this respect, their range is wide and varied.
For those who are looking for a mortgage, Clydesdale cleaned up at the recent Charcol mortgage awards and proudly display numerous mortgage awards throughout each of their branches. Although not all of them come to mind, they all give me a sense of well being.
However, I would take this point to note that none of the awards are for the lowest interest charged. Indeed, they all revolve around service, which seems to be the banks main reputation builder. With this in mind, you might want to check and make sure that you are still getting an OK deal.
I know a friend of mine who has a mortgage with them for £45,000. She is in the 9th year of her deal and swears she will never change. Although they are charging her a small amount more interest, they are also less strict on charges and such when things don't quite go right. She also got them to let her skip an entire payment at Xmas without any penalties. For the level of service they offer, it is probably worth the extra point of a percent they may charge you over 25 years.
Again, this is not something that I have delved into too much although I can advise that a friend of my has house insurance with them (contents). They have only ever had to make one claim and that was following a break in. The people who worked with them were great, although someone senior apparently decided they had broken into the house themselves!
Fortunately, one call to the helpline and the person who came to the house for the assessment made a call and sorted it out. They got the money. Although not perfect, they made a mistake and quickly corrected it. Everyone makes mistakes so this has to be a plus.
The major downside to their insurance seems to be their premiums. While they try to stay competitive with a lot of banks, anyone with a slight nouse for searching would easily find a cheaper premium for the same quote elsewhere online. With this in mind, this is the one section I would advise you avoid. While I can advise you to spend a little more for the service, there is a limit to how much more!
Wanting a basic account? Their new Cashmaster account comes with no overdraft, no loaning facility and no fees. However, in a new twist, you will now get a cash only card that can also be used online like a debit card and is going to be widely accepted (we are told).
If you want something more substantial, you will be glad to know that Visa Electron is not supported (woohoo). However, you can get both a Visa Card and a Mastercard at competitive rates. However, their offers for free balance transfers etc... don't add up to much so if you have the time and energy to keep changing your account every 6 months, this probably isn't the bank for you.
As stated in the mortgages section, the bank are also happy to remove charges if you offer a reasonable explanation and don't do it all the time. I think they realise that everyone makes the odd mistake or hits the odd spot of trouble. They would rather see you come out the other side than make your life worse with another charge. I think it's the only bank I have heard of that do!
You can now bank online with Clydesdale Bank. To do so you need to first contact them and get them to send you the relevant gumpf through the post. This took about 5 days as the password and ID's are sent seperately. Upon arrival I signed in without a problem and then hit a snag on the site. I phoned their helpline and they had me sorted in less than 3 minutes. Good going eh?
I can now view my account balance, set up standing orders, view pending debits/credits, apply for new accounts/services, request a change of details and transfer money from one account to the other. Basically, I can do all that you can at other banks.
You will be interested to note that they also offer a branch finder (as they make such a dance about committing to branches) and some background info on the company and its services.
The only downside to the service is that unlike other banks, you cannot enter your card number and a password to access the online banking site. Instead, they allocate you a customer ID. This is a long drawn out number and is almost impossible to remember. However, you only get one ID, regardless of how many types of accounts you have, so I guess it isn't all bad. Also stops a card thief transferring all my money out online (although I keep my password safe in my brain so this shouldn't happen anyway)!
Still, after a few weeks of regular use, it does start to sink in and you can throw that bit of paper in the bin. Should you forget it, you can do the same thing by phone anyway, so it's not the end of the world.
The site is also easy to navigate and makes sense. Log in and you get to choose which of your accounts to look at. Once in it you get the various options in a straight forward menu (nothing hidden). Even a first time novice will take less than 5 minutes to find their way around, just ask my gran!
BANKING BY PHONE:
Here is some good news, the telephone banking facility is 24 HOURS! Yes, it doesn't close. You can always speak to a human. This seems novel as most banks claim to have their lines open 24 hours, but this is often only for their automated services such as checking your balance.
The other good thing is that all you need is a number that they allocate you and your pass number. You type it in on the keypad after dialling and they get you straight to your account details. Great stuff. Security gets tighter if you want to change anything or make payments etc, but for basic things like checking your balance, this is great, easier than the Abbey system which has too many option menu's for my liking.
They also speak English, not Indian. I have not checked where there call centre is located, but if it is in India then they must have some Ex-pats working over there! I have regularly phoned to check something (especially before I signed up for online banking) and I have never had a problem.
Indeed, the helpline is probably the biggest plus about this bank. The staff listen to what you have to say and take it all in first time, regardless of the thick Scottish accent or the harshest Brummie tones. When talking they quickly ascertain what you are looking to sort/do/find out and then they give you the relevant options you can take. No nonsense either. They don't fluff it out with a lot of jargon or anything, they just say that 'if you do this you will get a charge' or 'if you do this you avoid a charge' or 'this would work if you want to ship money abroad' etc... If they don't know the answer, they also phone you back. None of this 'hold the line please (dull music 10 mins later, playing the same tune)'. Brilliant stuff.
OK, I cheated a bit here, and still came up with very little. As I don't own or run a business, this is not an area in which I can claim to be an expert. However, I can say that they do offer business accounts and they are apparently very good. As this is the way they first built up their own business, they still rely on it pretty heavily and have a great deal of expertese. Indeed, I have often seen people walking into the branch holding briefcases to match their suit and tie, and seen them walk out happy, so something must be good right?
If this interests you, I advise you to visit www.cbonline.co.uk and click on the business accounts link. I have not compared them with other banks in this area and have no real knowledge of it, sorry.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
I joined Clydesdale Bank around 6 years ago with something called a 'cashmaster' card. This was about the most basic account you can find and is the most basic the bank currently offers. In essence, you can put money in, take money out, have no overdraft or lending facilities and your card can only be used to get cash out. Hence the name of the card.
However, I can honestly say that the staff in all my local branches have always been polite and helpful. As I prefer to deal with cash, the account suits my needs. They allow you to withdraw over the counter (unlike similar accounts with Abbey for instance) and they are flexible and give you honest answers when you need to speak to them about direct debits etc.
I have recently signed up for their online banking and have to say that I am impressed. With the hectic lifestyle most of us lead, they gave me a hard to remember customer number that cannot be changed (that's right, no card numbers I'm afraid) and I selected my own password.
Online I can shift money about between accounts, check statements, balances, set up standing orders and such. Basically, I can follow the basic functions you would do in a branch. Indeed, anything I need to do urgently can be done online.
Should I need to contact them by phone for advice, they have always been polite and helpful and given me honest answers. I know it must be a call centre, but I don't have any qualms with that. They speak to me in English, give me the answers I need and sort things out for me there and then.
An example of this excellent service is when a blind charity decided they wanted to take more than they were authorised to. Their debit said £2 a month, they tried to take £12 a week. I noticed it online 2 days after the debit and called my bank. Despite only having a basic account, they reversed the direct debit, cancelled all future debits from the charity and advised me on appropriate courses of action from there. This was all within 4 minutes on the phone (this include the options menu, which is actually a lot shorter than many would expect).
So overall, I would highly recommend the service I have if its the one for you. Given that I am surely one of the least profitable customers for them, I am sure that the help and advice they offer will easily surpass many competitors if you hold a big account or credit cards etc. The main thing is that the staff always bend over backwards for you. If it can be done, they will find a way to do it and won't make you jump loops to get there. I guess they probably have the same rules as most other banks, but this aspect makes them well worth joining, even if their rates don't compare favourably in some cases.
Summary: Great service, unless you get it amazingly cheaper elsewhere, it is worth paying the extra.