Smart Money People launched in October 2014…and what a journey it’s been.

In our first year some 50,000 people visited our website to research UK financial firms, and around 2,500 shared their reviews.

Fast forward to today and around 1,000,000 people will visit our website in 2019, and we’re fast approaching 200,000 reviews about UK financial firms.

Our feedback helps customers to look inside financial firms before they sign on the dotted line. At times they want to know what the customer service is like, whether they can trust the company or even how long they’ll have to wait to get through to the call center.

We also work with a range of financial firms to help them analyse their feedback and better understand how their performance compares with similar companies. This helps them to identify areas of their service or overall proposition that can be improved upon to ultimately help customers.

Our British Bank Awards, which will shortly kick-off for another year, has become a force to be reckoned with, with both large high street banks and young upstarts all taking part.

And along the way we’ve also been featured in the press. Publications including The Telegraph, The Sunday Express, Daily Mirror, This is Money, The Spectator and the Money Advice Service have talked about us or shared our insight, helping us reach more customers.

Our Money Bites by Smart Money People podcast, which launched last month, has episodes designed to tackle key customer questions, and to give voice to the themes we’re seeing. Last week we asked ‘What’s going wrong with black box car insurance?’ following a steady stream of feedback from customers sharing their black box insurance feedback. It’s an episode that’s well worth a listen.

So, what’s next?

Since Smart Money People launched five years ago, a lot has changed.

Lots of new financial firms have come to market, from big names like Monzo and Starling Bank, to thousands of smaller firms. This has helped to make the financial market more dynamic and innovative, but it’s also increased the complexity.

With so many new financial firms around, with very different business models, it’s become harder to compare and contrast firms on a like for like basis. Customers still want to understand if a financial firm is ‘any good’ but they also increasingly need to know more, such as: How risky is this investment? Are there any hidden costs? Can I talk to someone face-to-face if something goes wrong? Helping customers to navigate this remains our core focus.

And while I believe that the vast majority of financial firms set-out to help customers, there’s still a minority that sail too close to the wind and seem to view customers like a herd of fat cash cows, who only exist to be milked dry. There’s a core group of financial firms that concern me.

High profile failures like the London Capital & Finance saga continue to crop up, and these remind us that there can be devastating consequences for those customers involved.

So in the coming year, our goal is simple. We want to do more to become the UK’s most useful review and insight website for financial services.

An upcoming re-design of our website will help visitors to Smart Money People to understand more about each financial firm. What’s good about a particular company, and what’s not, and to make it easier to understand what type of customers a particular product or service is designed for.

We’ll continue to work with financial firms to deliver rich insight. As I write this article, work is underway for our H2 2019 Mortgage Lender Benchmark, a piece of research which aims to enhance service levels across the industry.

And of course, we’ll continue to talk about what’s working well, and what isn’t, to make sure that the feedback customers leave on Smart Money People continues to matter.