National Savings and Investments (NS&I) is one of the UK’s largest retail savings organisations, helping over 25 million customers save for the future while raising finance for the UK government. As the brand moves forward with its ‘Rainbow Programme’ of transformation, here are five financial services brands providing excellent customer experiences that NS&I could look to for inspiration. 

first direct

Ever since it was founded in 1989, first direct has consistently won plaudits for customer service. More recently the bank was named Most Trusted Financial Provider by Moneywise in 2019 and was ranked top in the February 2020 Competition and Markets Authority bi-annual survey for overall service quality. Even a global pandemic couldn’t put the brand off their stride; they beat 270 other companies to be named the number one UK company for delivering high quality customer service across 13 sectors and industries, by The Institute of Customer Service. 

Comments from CEO Chris Pitt shed light on how the brand creates and manages its customer experiences. He said ‘Every day first direct’s people try to deliver for customers. We understand people value interactions which are simple, safe, and enable them to get on with their lives. Our focus is on providing a frictionless, digital banking experience, offering only those services which are genuinely useful and add value. But we also know how much worth there is in having highly trained, empathetic people available 24/7, empowered to treat customers as individuals not just another number.” 

Starling Bank

App-based challenger bank Starling was founded in 2014 with the aim of using technology to offer the next level of customer service. It’s been a startling success; the brand has won Best British Bank for the last four years, as well as Best Business Banking Provider and Best Current Account Provider for the last three and ‘Best Banking App’ for the first time in 2021. 

During the pandemic Starling introduced new features to make things easier for customers at home and self-isolating, including cheque imaging and a second debit card that can be used by a trusted friend, carer, or family member. CEO and founder Anne Boden said ‘we have spent a lot of time listening to what [our customers] have to say via our 24/7 customer service channels’ and described it as ‘the key to our success’. 

The app is very strong on money management tools. These include everything from real-time payment notifications to savings ‘Goals’, budgeting tools, bill splitting and round-up savings. Customers can also temporarily freeze their debit cards, for example while they work out whether it’s lost for good, or down the back of the sofa.  


With nearly 5 million customers, Monzo, one of the original challenger banks, is the most popular digital-only bank in the UK. It’s still winning awards too, coming top of’s 2021 survey of current account customers and in the top 5 most loved financial services brands

Monzo’s simple, speedy app is packed with features which have been hugely appealing to their target audience of millennials. Customers can ‘get paid’ a day early and set budgets for spending categories like Groceries, and Holidays. They can round up payments and save the ‘change’, create interest-earning savings pots and ‘lock’ them so they’re not tempted to spend them. More recently, Monzo has taken on the likes of Klarna with Monzo Flex. This ‘buy now, pay later’ product offering short-term borrowing in three instalments of £30 to £3,000 free, but with 19% interest on longer term payment plans. It allows customers to ‘flex’ their borrowing, paying back early if they have the funds available, or paying over longer if times become tight. 

Monzo has also won praise for its community forum, empowering customers not only to get support, but also to feed back, share ideas and get involved in the development of new features. 


Plum is an AI-based app helping users to budget and save. It uses open banking to analyse income and spending, calculating how much someone can afford to put away every few days and automatically transferring this amount into savings or investments. Customers can raise or lower the amounts they save with settings like ‘Beast Mode’ and ‘Shy Mode’. 

The app is particularly strong on ‘gamifying’ saving money, from ‘Rainy day savings’ – where it’ll literally put money aside if it rains – to the ’52-week challenge’, where a customer saves £1 in Week 1, £2 in Week 2, all the way up to £52 and £1,378 in total. Options for investments, provided by third parties such as Vanguard, include ‘Tech Giants’, ‘Clean and Green’ and ‘Best of British’. 

Plum gets glowing reviews from users, scoring an ‘Excellent’ 4.5 on Trustpilot, with comments on great customer service and effective savings tools. Any brand looking to engage or create a new savings audience would be wise to look at its offering, with innovative features and ‘gamification’ of savings strategies likely to be particularly attractive to a younger, digital-native audience. 


In a 2020 study Nationwide topped the banking category for most loved brands, outperforming high street banks on customer service and on attributes such as ‘friendly’ and ‘trustworthy. It’s also rated for competitive mortgages, named as Which? Recommended Mortgage Provider for the last seven years. The brand is particularly appealing to the over 50s, perhaps partly due to its commitment to keeping branches open. 

When Covid 19 took hold of the UK in spring 2020 Nationwide was quick to act, training frontline staff in conversation design so they could in turn, train Arti, a virtual assistant to answer questions related to the pandemic. 

This year, Nationwide has perhaps looked to NS&I for inspiration, to find a way to encourage savers put off by low interest rates. From September 2021 all Nationwide’s adult savers and mortgage holders in England, Scotland and Wales are entered into a monthly prize draw with prizes from £100 to £100,000 up for grabs. Each customer has one entry, reflecting the brand’s ethos that every member should be treated equally.  

Nationwide also haven’t forgotten that happy staff make for happy customers, recently announcing a new ‘work anywhere’ flexibility scheme for its office staff, enabling them to mix home and office-based work or work out of their local high street branch. 

The BIO Agency helps FS clients to create exceptional experiences that have impact because they’re based on real human behaviour. To talk to us about your business challenges, contact us here

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