For any sector involved in or affiliated to financial services, the past year or so has been a rollercoaster. The deposit-based savings industry is no exception. While consumers have searched for a haven for their hard-earned savings, as first Northern Rock and then others tumbled, the government has been rapidly trying to shore up the institutions with taxpayers' money.
For those caught out trying to maximise their savings in off-shore accounts, such as those in Iceland, stuffing the cash in a mattress might have proved more profitable than seeing their money getting sucked up in the global financial crisis. However, for the majority of Brits, no matter how battered the banks and building societies have seemed in recent months, a deposit-based savings account remains a core part of their household finances.
About 60% of adults (31m) hold a deposit or savings account, according to Mintel, with instant-access accounts (held by about half the population) proving the most popular.
In 2008, total retail savings balances amounted to £1.1bn, a 5% increase compared with the previous year. Although a reasonable rise, it lags behind previous years. Between 2003 and 2007 the annual growth rate averaged 8.5%.
The recession may make the idea of saving money a pipedream for some, but financial uncertainty appears to be encouraging others to put something away for an even rainier day. More than one in eight respondents to consumer research conducted by Mintel said that they intended to increase their savings in the next 12 months.
Those most likely to save are in the 55- to 64-year-old age bracket; in general, high-income households, homeowners and those in southern England have cash to squirrel away.
As the Bank of England base rate has plummeted, savers have been left struggling to find accounts that offer a decent return, but more savers are concerned about accessibility than annual interest when choosing their savings accounts.
The days of pass books and queuing in the local branch are a thing of the past. The number of bank branches has declined by about 3000 in the UK over the past 10 years, and one in five deposit account holders manages their savings via the internet.
Cash ISAs (where the interest is exempt from tax) are expected to grow in popularity as a result of the low interest rates. The ISA allowance is also being increased from £3600 to £5100.
The make-up of the banking sector has changed dramatically since the demutualisation of most of the big building societies. In December 2008 banks accounted for 70% of total balances, and building societies 21%.
Former building society Halifax - now part of the Lloyds Banking Group - is the leading player in the deposit-based savings market; one in five savers holds an account with it.
Nationwide Building Society is the leading non-banking organisation and its position has grown as it has merged with a number of smaller societies, such as Portman and Derbyshire.
It is, however, hard for institutions to drum up business when interest rates are so low. The base rate has been 0.5% since March, which means the average interest rate for instant access savers is just 0.17%. Nonetheless, as the stock market has proved so volatile over the past 18 months, more risk-averse investors may see savings as a better place for their money.
According to Mintel, over the next five years, the total deposit-based savings market is expected to reach £1.5bn, a 36% increase on 2009.
|Saving Brands by Penetration, Volume and Share|
|among adult||number of||volume market|
|savers (%)||consumers (m)||share (%)|
|8||Royal Bank of Scotland||7||2||4|
|9||Alliance & Leicester||6||1.7||3.4|
|11||Bradford & Bingley||3||0.9||1.8|
|12||Bank of Scotland||3||0.8||1.6|
|16||Clydesdale or Yorkshire Bank||2||0.5||0.9|
|17||Cheltenham & Gloucester||1||0.4||0.7|
|Other building society||7||2.3||4.5|
|Any insurance company||3||0.9||1.7|
|Internet-only or direct bank||3||0.8||1.6|
|Any supermarket-owned bank||2||0.5||1|
|Source: Ipsos MORI/Mintel|
|Base: 1221 adults aged 18+ who hold a savings account|