I didn’t realise Smile’s online service has been down for five days
It’s been discussed on the MSE forums, but other than that it hasn’t been widely publicised. They only have 100,000 customers, which is peanuts, basically, so the media won’t have been interested.
Strangely, the Co-op Bank itself hasn’t been affected, so Smile must use different systems.
Wow. TSB levels of ineptitude here.
It’s a shame, I always thought the Smile brand would have been suited to being spun off as a digital challenger to compete with Monzo and the like. Lack of ambition with their owners, maybe.
Still, this ain’t going to do much for the brand. Guessing there’ll be plenty switching away next week.
I guess that’s one way to close the bank.
Not good for smile.
Smile was a failed co-op thing, like co-op bank itself. So much potential just badly managed with noi future thought
I’m currently staying with a cousin of mine who is with Smile Bank. He’s obviously in the same situation. I’ve been coaxing him to join Starling Bank but he’s resisting. I can tell he’s absolutely fed up though. It really isn’t a very good thing for a bank to be down this long. Thankfully he’s also savvy enough to have back up accounts, but he really should consider his options with Smile now.
I don’t really know much about Smile. What made him stick with it?
I’ve never used Smile but have always understood that First Direct was the closest similar service - and most rated FD much better - though of course they are not currently accepting new customers
Yes, I’m not a customer but my understanding is that First Direct and smile were the original “direct banking” services, offering phone and later online services for connecting directly to your bank without needing to visit a branch - back when that was a revolutionary idea!
Eventually, the Co-operative Bank also adopted digital services and over the years the distinction between it as the parent brand and smile as the innovative “digital” brand has largely disappeared.
They have kept it open, but as there is no functional difference to the main brand it seems to run on duplicate systems so limited extra cost.
Smile is ten years younger than First Direct, and whilst First Direct started off as a telephone bank, Smile was an internet bank from the start. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smile_(bank)
I should have read up a bit more!
Very interesting actually, I think Egg was also an early online “big name” brand at the time? The article certainly mentions it as if that was the case and I remember seeing a picture of one of their cards somewhere.
I believe the person who founded First Direct then went on to set up Egg.
As it is, First Direct had internet banking before Smile was launched and before that had run a PC banking service
I think First Direct can claim to be most innovative, yes, but the first to launch with something is always noteworthy.
To use a modern day example, Starling may have been the first bank to launch as a fully-licensed app-only bank (with the fundamental difference in approach this created) - while other “traditional” high street banks had long had apps before, the difference was they had never previously been viewed as the primary channel for customer interaction.
Smile may arguably have been the first to have seen the full potential of the internet, while FD probably initially thought of the internet element as a useful ancillary service to the main phone line.
In other words, I suspect that smile was in fact the first ever “primarily internet-based” bank (with a phone line for backup) while First Direct was, and arguably still is, the reverse.
He’s been with Smile Bank for almost 20 years, he says, and he has quite a few friends who are also Smile Bank customers. They apparently are very happy with the service Smile give. I spoke to him about it today, but he’s just not interested in switching. Seems they can do no wrong.
Without going into the details, I used to work at Egg Bank in Derby. It was certainly interesting. I’m not a banker by the way!
Never underestimate the power of inertia. Clearly smile don’t regard their customers with the same degree of loyalty or their service wouldn’t be so poor (and I think we can objectively say it is poor as a week-long outage is just not acceptable, particularly for an “online bank”!)
Amazing you used to work at Egg, what are the chances of that?! I find all this a fascinating piece of history, as I’m too young to even remember Egg being a banking brand (this isn’t a dig or anything, please don’t be offended). It’s clear that things have changed a lot since the early heyday of the internet on the banking front.
You can go back even further than First Direct, Smile and Egg for the first foray into online banking in the UK. Although it didn’t last, the accolade would go Nottingham Building Society’s homelink service, launched 1983.
I was a Smile customer for around ten years before switching away from them in 2015. I was a very happy customer until they cocked up a foreign cheque I paid into my account. Should have cleared in 5 days, instead it took 8 weeks. They sent it using the wrong method - collection instead of negotiation - leaving me hard up for a while.
That’s incredibly early really, I’m amazed!
Thanks for posting the article. Mr Webster strikes me as a very prescient guy.
The pedant in me can’t help but point out that the New York Times mistakenly refers to the building society as a bank, though, which it isn’t of course.
Perhaps smile was the first bank and that’s how they can get away with their marketing claims?