Savers swamp building societies in race for best rates 


Building funds are struggling with the huge demand for new accounts from savers looking for a better return on their nest eggs.

The five largest associations — Nationwide, Coventry, Yorkshire, Skipton and Leeds — together hold about 90 percent of the money in the 43 associations.

All have seen a huge increase in depositors looking for new accounts, raising rates to as much as 2.85 per cent on easy access accounts – a Coventry Building Society best buy – and 3.7 per cent on one-year fixed interest bonds.

The five largest building societies - Nationwide, Coventry, Yorkshire, Skipton and Leeds - have all seen huge increases in depositors looking for new accounts

The five largest building societies – Nationwide, Coventry, Yorkshire, Skipton and Leeds – have all seen huge increases in depositors looking for new accounts

But Money Mail readers find they sometimes wait for up to an hour when they call for help with their savings accounts.

Some have also reported waiting more than three weeks to withdraw money through the mail.

Alan Dunsmore, 80, from Loughborough, Leicestershire, called Coventry BS for help transferring his National Savings & Investments Isa.

He was 109th in the mortgage bank queue. He gave up and tried again the next day, only to find that he was still well below number 79.

Carol Cumner, 76, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, was told there were 111 people in front of her waiting for the association to answer their questions. She lasted an hour and then was cut off.

She says, “I called right back and found out I was 93rd in line. No thank you. I know I can go online, but I’d rather talk to someone.”

At Leeds BS, 89-year-old retired wing commander Harold Talton waited almost three weeks for a check when he requested that £15,000 be withdrawn from an easily accessible postal account he held with the association.

He and his wife needed money to pay for a new boiler, car repairs and Christmas presents for their six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

He tried calling the association after receiving no reply to his letters and withdrawal form, but after waiting on the line for 45 minutes, he gave up.

Sam Richards, Head of Customer Service at Coventry BS, says: ‘Our contact center has been extremely busy over the past few weeks. We are very sorry that this has led to longer than usual waiting times.

‘The rise in interest rates finally gives more people more reason to put their savings in order.’

He adds, “We’re recruiting and training more people to answer calls and we added 30 new people on Monday, with more on the way.”

A Leeds Building Society spokesperson said: ‘We are deeply sorry for the delay Mr Talton has experienced following the request to withdraw his money.

“With the savings rate rising, we’ve had an exceptional amount of questions that we’ve dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Nationally, Skipton and Yorkshire are also leaving savers to fend for themselves.

At Yorkshire BS, a spokesperson says: ‘We are currently experiencing an increase in the number of inquiries and applications we are receiving, strongly driven by better savings rates.

“Our average response time for calls in November was less than five minutes, compared to five and a half minutes in October.

‘We do everything we can to maintain and improve the service level.’

A Nationwide spokesperson said: “We always do our best to answer member questions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Our most recent available data shows that our average speed of answering calls to savers’ members was two minutes.”

A spokesman for Skipton BS says: ‘At the moment we take an average of six minutes to answer calls.

“That is longer than usual, due to a mix of leading savings and mortgage products, and more customers seeking help and certainty on what to do or borrow with their money in light of recent interest rate hikes and general market uncertainty.”

This week, Money Mail was on hold for eight minutes before speaking to a Skipton adviser. We managed to get through to someone from Nationwide after waiting 13 minutes.

In Coventry we were 67th in line. Yorkshire said the wait would be over five minutes and we eventually reached a person after 13 minutes. Leeds took 16 minutes to reply.

our best cash Isa savings tables

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and use it for free. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to compromise our editorial independence.