Aussie challengers sweep World’s Best Bank survey, big four lag


A slew of challenger banks has swept Australia’s top rankings in a recent global banking survey, with Heritage, Bank Australia, and Newcastle Permanent rated as customers’ three favourite local banks.

Forbes’ World’s Best Banks 2020 survey, the second such poll conducted by the US-based business news publisher and Statista, an online researcher, sampled 40,000 customers globally on key customer satisfaction metrics, based on current and former banking relationships.

Gauging customers’ general satisfaction with their banks, institutions (including majors, challengers and neobanks) were rated on attributes of trust, fees, digital services, and financial advice.

National Australia Bank (NAB) ranked highest among Australia’s big four, taking 13th spot, with CBA (16th) and ANZ (18th) trailing closely behind. Suncorp (8th) and Macquarie (10th) were among the only two local, diversified financial services providers to break the top 10.

Only 20 local banks were ranked in the Australian portion of the survey, with Westpac a notable absentee in the list. However, Westpac subsidiary St George was included, rating a disappointing 17th place.

Mutual challenger banks, often perceived by customers as more community-focused and with strong branch-level service, rated highly among Australian consumers, taking four out of the top five places.

ING Australia, the digital-only arm of the international banking juggernaut ING and consistently among Australia’s most popular banks, took 5th spot in the survey.

No local neobank, an independent digital-only challenger, was included in Australia’s 20 surveyed banks. However, neos proved popular overseas, with Monzo (2nd), Revolut (4th) and Starling (6th) rating particularly highly in the UK. Local big four, The Bank of Scotland, also placed respectably, taking out 5th spot in the UK, with fellow major Barclays the next best at 12th.

In the US, San Francisco-based Chime (ranked 35th in the country) – a company of just over 300 employees – beat out mega-lenders JPMorgan Chase (36th) and Citigroup (71st).

Forbes acknowledged the immense impact that digital has had on defining customer satisfaction today.

“Innovative and seamless digital banking capabilities are paramount in a business where basic financial products have become commoditised and rock-bottom interest rates make it hard for lenders to differentiate,” said Antoine Gara, associate editor at Forbes.

“Consumers are instead voting with their smartphones, demanding the ability to conduct their financial activities safely and easily on mobile phones and their desktops,” he said.

Covid-19, he said, has only further served to increase consumers’ snowballing demand for digital-only banking options.

“Never were these growing demands more important than during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced countries around the world to announce lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus.

“Unable to visit bank branches, consumers turned to mobile apps and online services to get transactions done.”

Forbes’ top Australian banks as rated by consumers:

1 Heritage Bank Toowoomba Australia 774
2 Bank Australia Melbourne Australia 427
3 Newcastle Permanent Building Society Newcastle West Australia 1,000
4 IMB Bank Wollongong Australia 600
5 ING Group Amsterdam Netherlands 53,431
6 Greater Bank Hamilton Australia 748
7 HSBC Holdings London United Kingdom 235,351
8 Suncorp Brisbane City Australia 13,500
9 Bendigo Bank Bendigo Australia 7,200
10 Macquarie Sydney Australia 15,715
11 CUA – Credit Union Australia Brisbane Australia 1,000
12 People’s Choice Credit Union Adelaide Australia 1,000
13 NAB – National Australia Bank Melbourne Australia 34,370
14 Bank of Melbourne Melbourne Australia 1,200
15 ME Melbourne Australia 1,280
16 CommBank Sydney Australia 48,238
17 St.George Bank Sydney Australia 5,700
18 ANZ Melbourne Australia 39,060
19 Bankwest Perth Australia 4,000
20 Beyond Bank Adelaide Australia 593