Canadians less satisfied with their banks this year, survey finds

TORONTO – Canadian bank customers surveyed in an annual poll are less satisfied with their financial institutions than they were a year ago, at least partly due to the rising fees they’re being charged.

The survey from J.D. Power and Associates, released Thursday, found that the percentage of customers who say they will “definitely” reuse their bank in the future, declined by four percentage points since a year ago.

And the number of respondents who said they would “definitely” recommend their bank dropped five percentage points from last year.

At least part of the rising discontent was tied to a greater number of customers who have been slapped with higher fees, with 27 per cent of respondents saying their charges went up this year, compared with 17 per cent in 2011.

“Not only are customers frustrated with changes to their fee structure, but many are also confused by the changes, leading to the lower satisfaction,” said Lubo Li, senior director of financial services at J.D. Power.

“Banks may try to offset the dissatisfaction with these changes by proactively communicating with their customers and ensuring that they fully understand what the changes are and why they are occurring.”

Many of the respondents also said they had a lower overall opinion of the reliability and financial stability of their banks.

Satisfaction with online banking slid eight percentage points over last year, mostly due to problems navigating websites, and a lack of some services.

The weaker impression of online services comes even as more Canadians log on to manage their finances. The survey said online banking has increased to 86 per cent, up six percentage points, and surpassing branch usage. At the same time, twice as many people used their mobile phones for banking compared to last year, rising to eight per cent.

On the upside, customers said they were largely happy with financial advisers at the banks, though this is the first time the survey asked respondents about them.

The highest ranked of the big five Canadian banks was TD Bank (TSX:TD), which has consistently led the results since the survey was launched seven years ago. ING Direct Canada ranked the highest of the midsize banks.

The annual J.D. Power survey polled 12,000 Canadians who use either banks or credit unions. Included were the big five Canadian banks — Royal Bank (TSX:RY), Scotiabank (TSX:BNS), CIBC (TSX:CM), Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) and TD Bank (TSX:TD) — as well as what it called midsize banks.