PNC Financial beat its big-bank competitors in a first-of-its-kind assessment of customer satisfaction by the market research firm J.D. Power.

JPMorgan Chase finished second in the study, which evaluated only the country’s six largest retail banks.

U.S. Bancorp came in third, followed by Bank of America and then Wells Fargo. Citigroup scored lowest.

The study assessed customer satisfaction across a range of consumer banking products, including deposits, credit cards, mortgages and investments. It was based on responses from more than 5,700 bank customers in June and July.

In the past, J.D. Power has conducted customer satisfaction studies that compare big banks with smaller regional institutions. But with technology becoming more central to the industry’s fortunes, and as big banks have invested far more money in digital banking than their smaller competitors, it made sense to evaluate the big banks on their own, J.D. Power said.

“The largest retail banks in the nation are playing a different game than the smaller, regionally focused rivals, so they should be evaluated on their own scale,” Bob Neuhaus, financial services consultant at J.D. Power, said in a press release.

PNC and Chase both earned high marks in the study for causing relatively few headaches for their customers. Examples of such problems include erroneous fees and payment processing snags.

But in an interview, Neuhaus sounded a note of caution. “The problem levels that we see in the industry across all banks are still high enough that they have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The study found that San Francisco-based Wells, which continues to be dogged by a scandal involving unauthorized customer accounts, is suffering from a tarnished public reputation.

“It’s reasonable to conclude that the bad press that they’ve had is certainly impacting how customers are perceiving them,” Neuhaus said.

Citi’s customer satisfaction score may have been hurt by its comparatively small branch network. The New York-based bank has fewer than 1,400 U.S. branches, while Chase, Wells and B of A all have more than 5,000.

“That can impact perceptions of convenience and access for customers,” Neuhaus said.

Last year, for the first time ever, the nation’s six largest banks scored higher than their smaller peers in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction study. Those results suggest that the big banks are reaping benefits from their considerable spending on consumer-facing technology.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.
Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.