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A new article online at The Economist will make for sobering reading at the marketing departments of big banks.

In addition to poor customer satisfaction rankings, it seems that, in America at least, a fair share of disgruntled customers are moving their money away from large banks. The article mentions a Zogby poll released earlier this month that showed a third of Americans considered switching to a smaller bank because they disliked the “policies or behaviour” of big banks. Some 14% of respondents had actually moved their money from a large bank to a small bank over the past year, with 9% doing so to protest the behaviour of large lenders.

For America’s biggest banks, the latest customer satisfaction survey from the University of Michigan makes for unpleasant reading. Although the overall level of satisfaction with banks has remained steady over the past 12 months, this is largely down to smaller banks and credit unions improving their scores. Individually, the country’s three largest banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup—have all seen their satisfaction scores fall. Wells Fargo is the only top-tier lender to record a higher score in the latest survey, which the poll’s administrators put down to its takeover of Wachovia, traditionally a strong performer when it came to customer service.

As regulators devise new rules to discourage financial institutions from holding risky assets and trading in exotic securities, large universal banks are scrambling to shore up the core consumer deposit, savings and loan services that are the focus of the University of Michigan’s survey. On this front, there is much work left to do.

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