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Is the drive towards online banking damaging genuine customer service?

The convenience of online banking is something many of us now enjoy.

But the drive to push customers online has led some banks to be viewed as faceless and bureaucratic, and many customers old enough to remember the era before the IT revolution often hark back to the days when they could speak directly to their bank or account manager.

Aidan Doherty

Pictured: Managing Director, Aidan Doherty

For every positive story you may hear about an online banking customer being able to make transactions 24/7 , there’s probably a negative one about someone frustrated at not being able to get a simple answer to a simple question without sending half a dozen emails to faceless and nameless ‘customer service’ personnel. There used to be a time when it was common to know the name of your bank manager and be able to meet them face to face. That was great for customers who were made to feel that they were more than just a name and an account number on a balance sheet, but not much good if they needed to make a transaction or check a balance in the evening or at the weekend.

In between the traditional and the online-focused banking model could there be a ‘third way’ which blends the best of both worlds? Aidan Doherty, Managing Director of Permanent Bank International (PBI), believes there is. With 37 years’ experience in financial services, and 30 of those years offshore, he has seen first hand the tremendous impact which technology has had on the sector.

He said:

“There’s no doubt that online banking offers many advantages – and an online-focused model doesn’t always mean poor customer service. But in our experience there are still many customers who miss the face-to-face interaction that was once the hallmark of high street banks. We are introducing online banking for our customers in the next few months, but in doing so we will remain focused on our core principle which is to provide ‘the personal face of banking’. This is much more than just a marketing slogan, it demonstrates a genuine commitment to put customers first at all times. As a client focused bank we concentrate on building long-lasting relationships with customers by taking time to get to know them and their requirements.

When a customer phones they will get straight through to an experienced client relations team member who will do all they can to make doing business with PBI easy and enjoyable. In many ways this type of traditional customer experience harks back to the days before the IT revolution – so our online platform will be designed to reflect our personal face of banking ethos and complement our already high standards of customer service.”

PBI customers choosing to use the online platform will be able to manage their money online, no matter where they are.

Customers will be able to view their transactions and check balances 24/7. New customers will be able to apply online to open an account, making the process much more user friendly.

But underpinning the online platform will be a commitment to listening to customers, and providing the type of experience they expect and deserve. New technology doesn’t have to mean banks becoming faceless and bureaucratic – as the PBI example shows, there is a way to find the right balance between the old and the new."

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