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  1. Politics
21 September 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 5:50pm

Four years and four million bank accounts switched

The launch of the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) four years ago has changed banking for good. 

By Anne Pieckielon

Four years ago this week, a brand new switching service was introduced to help drive competition in the UK’s banking industry. The Current Account Switch Service (CASS) was designed to make it easier for consumers, small businesses, and small charities and trusts to vote with their feet and change banks when it comes to their current account.

Since then, CASS has facilitated more than 4 million switches, with almost 100 per cent (99.5 per cent) completed within the seven-day switching window. We have redirected 25 million payments mistakenly applied to old bank accounts and extended that safety net indefinitely, making sure that all stray payments are scooped up and paid to the proper place. As one of the biggest barriers to switching – particularly for businesses – was the fear of payments going missing, this is one hurdle that’s been firmly flattened for good.

Outside of this operational success, CASS is being held up as an example of best practice for other countries, with representatives of the South Korean and Israeli banking sectors and the Australian Payments Network all looking at the service as a model they can adopt to drive effective competition within their own borders. There are also moves from other UK industry sectors to take a closer look at the system, with energy and water sectors investigating how they could benefit from considering a similar approach, applying CASS principles to increase mobility and choice within their own industries.

We’re recognised as world class, and we’ve worked hard to achieve that. As we’ve developed the service, we’ve done so with the focus of putting the end user firmly at the centre of all of our plans, making sure we meet their needs first and foremost. 

That’s been realised by in-depth research into the way customers think and feel – what motivates them to move and what makes them stay with their old provider, and what barriers we should look to remove. We have been working to develop a thorough understanding of how and why people make the decisions they do, be they positive or negative. All that work has been used to inform the evolution of the service to where it stands today, and we will continue with our research to make sure we meet changing customer needs as we move forwards.

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This research also feeds into our ongoing and extensive programme designed to raise awareness of the simplicity of switching in the 21st century, particularly for hard-to-reach and reluctant audiences such as account holders with overdrafts. A new national campaign, including TV, radio, print and online advertising, has just been launched to mark the fourth anniversary, with messaging drawn from the findings of the various studies carried out for CASS, many in conjunction with the University of Bristol, and the Social Market Foundation.

Moving bank accounts used to be a lengthy and painful process, something that prevented people from switching to the best option for them. Rather than that old, cobbled switching street, we now have a superhighway in CASS. Our next job is to make sure that everyone who needs it knows that they can use it with confidence, particularly those who face the biggest financial challenges. CASS is throwing away the key that locks people into unsuitable bank accounts.

Anne Pieckielon is Director of Product and Strategy at Bacs, the industry body behind the UK’s leading automated payment products.