Improvement in banks' reputations in eyes of public, research finds

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Banks' reputations in the eyes of the public are improving - although the industry is still considered "average" - research has found.

Nationwide Building Society, Virgin Money and Halifax topped the UK RepTrak rankings of the most reputable retail banks and building societies.

Compiled by the consulting and advisory firm the Reputation Institute, the findings are based on more than than 35,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2017 from people in the UK.

Its report said that the retail banking sector has been "one of the most challenged in terms of reputation since the 2008 financial crash, with stories of greedy bankers".

The Reputation Institute said its data provides evidence that the industry has struggled to rebuild its reputation among the UK general public, with a "weak" overall reputation score of 59.6 out of 100 in 2014 and an even worse score of 57.7 in 2015.

But it said there has been a significant improvement in the last two years, with retail banks achieving a combined score of 64.5 in 2017 - "placing them firmly within the 'average' category, below the technology sector but above utilities".

It said the the biggest "faller" in the retail banks rankings from 2016 to 2017 is Santander, from a score of 67.4 in 2016 to 64.7 in 2017. The Institute suggested the fall could have been fuelled by a recent drop in the interest rate on Santander's flagship 123 current account.

Meanwhile, RBS has struggled to gain higher than a "poor" score in recent years, but has managed to edge into the "weak" category with a score of 51.7 this year, according to the findings.

The RepTrak system measures perceptions about a company's ability to deliver on key aspects of reputation - including products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance.

James Bickford, managing director of the Reputation Institute, said: "Through its communications Nationwide has leveraged its position as a building society owned by its members, and this has paid off in the eyes of the UK public."

:: Here are the UK RepTrak rankings and scores for 2017. Companies are ranked on a score from 0 to 100 based on their overall reputation, and are grouped as Excellent (80-plus), Strong (70-79), Average (60-69), Weak (40-59) or Poor (below 40):

1. Nationwide Building Society, 79.8

2. Virgin Money, 68.1

3. Halifax, 67.3

4. Lloyds Banking Group, 66.1

5. Metro Bank, 65.7

6. Santander, 64.7

7. Barclays, 64.6

8. Co-op Bank, 64.1

9. NatWest, 62.8

10. HSBC, 62.6

11. TSB, 60.6

12. RBS, 51.7