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May 27, 2009 5:54 pm
The Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley banking brands are to disappear from the UK high street from the beginning of next year, as part of a national rebranding by their Spanish parent group, Santander.
All 1,000 branches of Abbey and Bradford & Bingley will be renamed Santander from the first quarter of 2010, and a further 300 Alliance & Leicester branches will complete their name change by the end of the year.
Any customer of Abbey, Alliance & Leicester or Bradford & Bingley Savings will then be able to carry out transactions in any of the 1,300 rebranded branches, thanks to IT integration work being undertaken at the same time.
Santander said the move will deliver “a significant advantage” for its 25 million customers, as they will have access to hundreds more branches from early next year, and a global banking network across 40 countries.
However, banking analysts warn that some of the best-value savings accounts and mortgages offered by the individual brands may be withdrawn when they are amalgamated.
Kevin Mountford, head of banking at moneysupermarket.com, said: ”Consumers will need to keep their eyes peeled to see how this will affect them, as there can be no doubt the consolidation process will leave some casualties. There are currently three brands offering a range of different products, with different customer propositions. Individually Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley and Abbey all offered some well priced, good value products that challenged the big four clearing banks.”
According to the data provider Moneyfacts, Alliance & Leicester currently offers one of the ‘best-buy’ current accounts, paying an interest rate of 4.89 per cent, including an introductory bonus, on balances of up to £2,500.
But Moneysupermarket.com points out that Alliance & Leicester’s current account offers were not made available to existing Abbey current account customers following Santander’s takeover of Alliance & Leicester in 2008.
Santander’s move to operate under a single brand in the UK is also expected to further reduce consumer choice on the high street, following the merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB in January this year.
“When all the brands are combined under Santander, we must expect there to be a reduction in choice and competition,” warned Mountford. ”I hope Santander will continue to challenge the main high street banks by offering good value products and excellent customer service.”
But the banking group’s UK chief executive, António Horta-Osório, insisted customers would not lose out. “We’ll continue to offer better value-for-money products than our competitors and remain committed to maintaining our branch network and the teams that run them,” he said.
“Our prudent approach and focus on branch-based banking enabled us to acquire the A&L and B&B savings business in 2008, despite unprecedented market turmoil. Since then, we’ve applied the same principles to both, improving the products and services we offer as well as the business performance of each bank.”
Read the Investor Chronicle’s story: Bradford & Bingley defaults on Pibs interest
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