National Savings & Investments, or NS&I, is losing its reputation as the nation’s favourite savings institution. “I’ve long been a champion of NS&I... and I know many readers feel the same way,” says James Coney, Money editor of The Sunday Times. “Or at least, they did.”
So what’s gone wrong? It started in spring when Treasury-backed NS&I was given extra funding so it could offer better rates. “Customers flocked to it, but like many financial institutions it faced the challenge of keeping service levels up when lockdown came,” says Coney. “Phone waiting times rose from ten seconds to 12 minutes.”
After that there were changes to Premium Bonds that meant winners couldn’t be paid by cheque anymore. So millions of customers needed to sign up online, but long waiting times on the phone meant many struggled to get help registering for internet log-in details.
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“The decision to stop sending Premium Bond prizes out by post was made to save paper,” says Fiona Parker in the Daily Mail. “However, the bank’s Direct Isa customers are now discovering they cannot move their money online – ironically forcing them to fill in a form and put it in the post in a process that can take weeks.”
The final insult came last month when NS&I slashed interest rates, in some cases from 1.15% down to just 0.01%, and lengthened the odds of winning on the Premium Bonds.
As a result, millions of customers are trying to take their money elsewhere. “But those trying to move their money are having to wait weeks as they struggle to navigate the... new website or to speak to anyone about it on the telephone,” says Parker.
“Enough is enough,” says Coney. “It is time for the Treasury select committee to haul in NS&I‘s boss Ian Ackerley to investigate this fiasco…this is one of Britain’s... most loved financial institutions being badly run, lumbering from one disaster” to the next.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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