The pressure on sales staff in Britain's banks is so great that almost half admit they know colleagues who have mis-sold products in order to hit targets, new research claims.
In a survey of more than 500 front line bank employees at HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays and Santander by consumer organisation Which?, 46% admitted to knowing fellow workers who have mis-sold products, while 40% said targets drive employees to sell when it's not appropriate.
Two thirds believed the pressure to hit sales targets is 'more than ever' with the same number saying that they are always asked to sell more. A fifth reported that the reason given to them by managers is increased profits, compared to only 6% who said it is because the action is in the customer's interest.
Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: "Our survey reveals the stark realities of the sales culture that still exists at the heart of the banking industry. Senior bankers say the culture is changing but this shows it just isn't filtering through to staff on the front line who remain under real pressure to put sales before service, even after incentives are taken away.
"This proves the need for big change across the industry and for bankers to put customers first, not sales. We're calling on the banks to be much more transparent about their sales targets and incentives. We also want to see bankers meet professional standards and comply with a fully independent code of conduct."
John Walker, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, added: "The Which? findings are disturbing. They suggest the sales culture that has eroded the trust between the banks and their customers persists.
"Many small firms have learned the hard way about the problems associated with being mis-sold products that are not appropriate for their business.
"Thousands of firms have collapsed as a result of the mis-selling of complex financial products and many more are still waiting to get redress from the banks. This needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency, and for the interests of the banks to be fully aligned with their customers."
Which? said it is handing a dossier of evidence to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, government and opposition ministers and the Financial Standards Authority. The dossier includes the bank staff survey, consumer views and previous research on the banking industry.