Helpful Banking


Helpful Banking?

In tonight’s Panorama program on BBC One, reporter Adam Shaw investigates the current state of Britain’s high street banks, and reveals that while base rates remain low, the cost of borrowing for customers has risen significantly – with one bailed-out bank charging an effective interest rate in excess of 3,000 per cent – while small businesses are finding it just as hard to get a loan.

This reminded me of one stormy evening in September 2009, when an incredible mix of people gathered for our Big City Brainstorm, where we explored “How to rebuild the reputation of the UK’s financial services sector and the City of London as the world’s leading financial centre”. The overwhelming impression we had then was how angry people were about what had happened. They had lost their trust in what was previously the great hero of the country. How could we rebuild it?

The Big City Brainstorm came up with some ideas for rebuilding the trust that, while being tongue-in-cheek, also reflect how people felt at the time.

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of banks are now using messages like “helpful”, “trust us”, “we’re different” and “we understand” in their advertisements. The line goes “we’re here to help”. They entice with throwbacks to the good old days by saying you can speak to your bank manager about your mortgage or savings (Bank managers still give mortgage advice? Not in my branch). Clearly the need to rebuild trust has become apparent to their marketing teams.

However, eighteen months after the great British banking crash, there are few visible changes. Most of the same old names are still there, and the banks are back to making handsome profits and equally handsome bonuses – rewarding themselves to the tune of 6 billion pounds in 2009. The banks, however helpful & different they claim to be in their adverts, don’t seem to have changed their ways .

So what can they do to restore trust?

Author: Kristine Pitts