At its Finance Forum concluding in London today, Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) released a new study about customer advocacy — an approach that champions the consumer perspective as much as the bottom line. Forrester surveyed more than 23,000 financial consumers throughout Europe, representing the latest results of its ongoing European Consumer Technology Adoption Survey.

German bank Sparda achieved the top ranking — with 57 percent of customers agreeing that the bank “does what’s best for me, not what’s best for its profits.” Sparda was ranked number two in last year’s study.

More UK banks than from any other country featured in the list — with three entries this year. The Co-operative Bank finished at number two, First Direct at three, and Nationwide — which topped last year’s list — slipped to fourth place this year.

Caixa de Catalunya represent Spain in this top 10 at number 8 with 37 percent of respondents citing the bank as a customer advocate, down from number 7 last year.

For the first time, a Dutch bank has been listed in the top 10. Rabobank holds that slot with 33 percent of respondents citing the bank as a customer advocate. Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken enters the rankings at number five with 41 percent. Italy was the only major European country that did not have a bank in Forrester’s top 10 ranking. (Complete list below.)

Given that only 57 percent of customers for the highest-ranked bank agreed that it was a customer advocate, the study also shows that there is significant room for improvement. “Customer advocacy remains the best predictor of future purchase intent among financial services consumers,” said Forrester Research Director Cliff Condon. “Banking relationships are tenuous ¿ consumers feel satisfied with their primary bank, but they don’t necessarily plan to grow the relationship beyond a current account.” The Forrester survey found that only 16 percent of customers would consider opening a savings account with their primary bank, for example, and 9 percent opening a credit card.

When Forrester analyzed the results of the survey, it found four overarching characteristics of the highest-scoring banks. The institutions perceived as the strongest customer advocates tend to keep their offerings simple, build consumer trust, operate transparently, and act benevolently.

Overall Results

  1. Sparda (57%) (2)
  2. The Co-operative Bank (54%) (3)
  3. First Direct (52%) (10)*
  4. Nationwide (49%) (1)
  5. Svenska Handelsbanken (41%) (/)
  6. Volks- und Raiffaisen-banken (40%) (5)
  7. La Banque Postale (38%) (10)*
  8. Caixa de Catalunya (37%) (7)
  9. Crédit Mutuel (35%) (4)
  10. Rabobank (33%) (/)

* Shared position
Base: European consumers with a main bank
Source: Forrester’s European Consumer Technology Adoption Survey Q2 2006 Survey