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Where Banks Fall Short

Three out of four Canadian bank customers say their primary bank fails to meet their expectations. That’s according to a recent survey by FIS, whose findings identify key areas where banks must improve.

Banks get high marks for things like in-person service, convenience and online connectivity, but fall short in terms of fairness of fees, following through on promises, rewarding loyalty and transparency of pricing. These shortcomings are something to heed for all bank challengers, including mortgage brokers and credit unions.


As a whole, Canadian banks got a 76 out of 100 satisfaction rating (with 100 being the goal). Credit unions fared notably better, scoring 88 out of 100.

Those most happy with banks tend to be older (45-64 years old), while less satisfied consumers tend to be younger (35-44). That younger demographic does 30% more transactions at alternative financial service providers.

Based on FIS findings, banks have three key opportunities to build consumer trust. These are all areas where they underperform:

  • Providing easy-to-understand pricing and terms
  • Following through on promises (although FIS’s report was a bit vague on this point)
  • Being fully transparent on fees and charges

Many brokers and credit unions (but far from all), already do a banner job in these three areas by:

  • Not posting unrealistically high mortgage rates
    • Leading the pack are competitive mortgage brokers and forward-thinking lenders like Meridian Credit Union, all of whom openly advertise better-than-average pricing on their websites
    • By contrast, banks typically advertise above-market posted or special-offer rates, forcing customers to negotiate to obtain competitive discounts. As a case in point, only one of the Big 6 Banks (BMO) is advertising a reasonable 5-year fixed rate (2.59%) at the time of this story, and that’s for a restricted mortgage.
  • Offering products with fair prepayment charges
    • Versus painful bank penalties based on “discounts” from artificially high posted rates
    • Note: Some brokers sell deeply discounted rates with penalties that are just as bad as the banks, if not worse, but any broker worth his/her salt unambiguously explains the tradeoff of those products, while simultaneously offering less restrictive alternatives.

As is visible in the chart above, reliability and security are also crucial to bank customers. Virtually all serious bank challengers also build those elements into their marketing playbooks.

Side Note: FIS’s survey included 1,000 financial decision-makers in Canada, aged 18-75, who have a chequing account, or equivalent, with a financial institution.