RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC have an even worse reputation than the Co-op

Crystal meth and near-death can't compete with PPI and Libor.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 16 May 2016

It’s less than three years since the scandalous near-collapse of the Co-operative Bank, but it seems consumers still have more faith in it than most of its high street competitors.

Despite all the crystal meth-induced high jinks of the bank’s former boss Reverend Paul Flowers, it managed to attain an ‘average’ rating of 62.4 out of 100 in the Reputation Institute’s latest Reptrak ranking. That compares to 62.1 for HSBC, 59.8 for Barclays, 57.3 for Lloyds and 49.3 for RBS.

The best part of a decade on from the financial crisis, the ‘Big Four’ clearly still face an uphill reputational struggle. Ongoing stories about PPI reparations and Libor rigging don’t help. Nor do repeated IT cock-ups that prevent people getting their wages.

The research asked members of the public to rank companies against seven measures of reputation, including the quality of their products, their management and their value as an investment. The Co-op bank’s resilience in this regard is probably down to a few factors.

Although it’s now majority owned by hedge funds rather than the Co-operative Group (which still holds 20% of its equity), the two companies share a brand. The esteem in which people hold their local Co-operative Food shop and the friendly Co-operative Funeralcare undertaker who buried their gran feeds into their perception of the bank. Perhaps RBS should get into groceries?

And the public clearly has a thing for mutuals – as Middle England’s ongoing love affair with the John Lewis Partnership attests. The top-rated bank in the survey was Nationwide, which remains in the hands of its members despite several attempts in the past to get it turned into a 'proper' bank.

The survey was also testament to the power of sub-brands. While RBS and Lloyds may have few fans, their respective subsidiaries Natwest and Halifax fared much better in 6th and 4th. Challenger banks Virgin Money and Metro Bank also came pretty high up, along with Spain’s Santander.

‘Halifax and NatWest’s’ focus on consumer fairness appears to have had a stronger impact on reputation than the more corporate messages adopted by the likes of Lloyds Banking Group and RoyalBank of Scotland,’ said Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Reputation Institute. ‘It is evident that those most clearly associated with the financial crisis find it hard to shake off their bad reputations, whilst mutual and new, disruptive entrants to the market are performing the strongest.’

The full rankings: 

1. Nationwide Building Society 72.4

2. Virgin Money 69.8

3. Santander 67.4

4. Halifax 67.3 

5. Metro Bank 66.6

6. Natwest 65.1

7. The Co-op Bank 62.4

8. HSBC 62.1

9. Barclays 59.8

10. TSB Banking Group 59.7

11. Lloyds Banking Group 57.3

12. RBS 49.3

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