As you may have noticed, the TSB brand is back on the High Street. For those of us that remember the old Trustee Savings Bank – I opened my very first bank account with the TSB back in the 1990s – having the Bank That Likes To Say Yes back in action seems a bit like a return to the halcyon days of old fashioned banking.
The TSB’s return has been accompanied by a charming animated commercial. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here:
Now, I have no axe to grind with the TSB. I’m sure the people who work there are lovely and I never had any trouble with my current account there 20 odd years ago. What I do have a problem with, though, is this advert: one of the most disingenuous I have ever seen.
For reasons of clarity, let’s outline the facts surrounding TSB’s recent past:
1. The bank existed as its own entity until 1986
2. In 1986 shares in TSB Bank were floated on the stock market
3. In 1995 it merged with the Lloyds Banking Group. The two brands were amalgamated and shareholders then owned shares in Lloyds TSB
4. In 2008, the falling HBOS share price led Lloyds taking over its rival. Lloyds TSB shareholders approved the takeover in November 2008 (thanks to JP for the clarification, here)
5. The British Government bailed out the bank by buying a 43.4% stake in the group in 2009
6. As this purchase was considered ‘state aid’, under European Commission competition laws, the group was required to sell a portion of its business
7. The group decided that a number of Lloyds TSB branches in England and Wales, together with all branches of Lloyds TSB Scotland plc and Cheltenham & Gloucester will form a new business which will operate under the TSB brand
8. The new TSB bank is expected to float in 2014
In short, the TSB bank ceased to exist in 1995 when shareholders approved a merger with Lloyds. Then, the ‘new’ bank was taken over by HBOS and, thanks to its failure and the requirement for government intervention, was forced to divest itself of 632 branches which are now branded as TSB.
Let’s check this version of events against the TSB advert, shall we?
“He [Henry Duncan] built a bank whose sole purpose was to help hard working, local people. He believed industry could be encouraged and a sense of pride and independence fostered only when a bank served its community with the people’s interests at its heart.”
Hmm. Nice ideas but starting to look a bit shaky at the point where the bank is considering a stock market flotation…
“The groundwork had been laid for ordinary people to thrive, along with their neighbours. To build communities together. Secure in the knowledge that their money was safe and working for the benefit of all.”
I’m pretty sure that the nature of a stockmarket flotation – as TSB did in 1986 – means that the bank is now working for the benefit of its shareholders rather than its customers. And, a merger with a major rival that is approved by shareholders doesn’t suggest to me that the money ‘was working for the benefit of all’.
Anyway, it goes on.
“And then a storm came. In the turbulent times that followed it was easy to think the ideals that Henry Duncan held so dear had been lost forever. But they hadn’t. They had always been here just waiting to be found. TSB – Welcome back to local banking.”
So, we’re supposed to buy the notion that the relaunch of the TSB brand is an attempt to reconnect with 200 year old visions of what a bank should be like? That Lloyds and subsequently HBOS were simply keeping TSB warm and cosy until such a time when the British public demanded that behaviour from a bank again? That the TSB is going to be a local bank run for the benefit of its customers?
The TSB is back for one reason and one reason only: because HBOS – its owner- failed, the government bailed it out and the laws meant that they had to flog some of their assets. Indeed, had the Co-Operative Bank not pulled out of a deal for the 632 branches at the eleventh hour, the TSB would still be a distant memory and those locations would now be branded as the Co-Op.
And next year the TSB will be floated, once again owned by shareholders and ripe for being gobbled up by a rival when the economy recovers.
I can’t help thinking that Henry Duncan – the man behind the TSB – wouldn’t be celebrating at the return of the ideals on which his bank was based. He’d be disappointed and let down by the appalling spin that HBOS are putting on this whole campaign. Inaccurate, shameless and cynical, this is one of the most unpleasant adverts I’ve seen in recent years.