The Co-op Bank has the best content and online functionalilty of UK’s main retail banking sites, according to new research from analyst Forrester.

The analyst group examined the online offering of the UK’s ten largest retail banking brands — Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, first direct, Lloyds TSB, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander, The Co-operative Bank, and Yorkshire Bank.

It found that while UK customers were among the world’s most enthusiastic adopters of online financial services, the sites they used were often lacking.

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“Although UK customers are among the most likely anywhere in the world to research and buy financial products online, the nation’s retail banks have been oddly slow to develop world-class Web sites,” said report author Vanessa Niemeyer. “The Co-operative Bank tops our review because it supports users who want to research and buy a current account in all phases of the customer journey.”

Forrester found 40 per cent of UK web users have applied for a financial services product in the last 12 months and that almost 60 per cent have researched a financial product online in the past 12 months. This is more than in any other European country.

The Co-op bank led the rankings , followed by NatWest, Santander, Barclays and Lloyds TSB. However, Forrester noted, “No banking Web site is good across the board. Even banks that provide excellent content and functionality in some areas fail to meet the standards in other aspects First Direct, for example, does well at attracting users and providing product information — and yet is surprisingly weak for a direct bank in supporting product applications.

"Santander’s Web site is good in the attraction phase and also does well in supporting the application for a current account but fails to provide clear and well-structured product information, comparisons, or selection tools.”

The analyst house created typical customer scenarios and then tracked a number of features that enable end-users to effectively research and purchase products.