British banking: face it, your brand is broken

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Champagne and strawberries, anyone? Well, there won't be any for NatWest parent RBS this year. Following its disastrous systems meltdown, the financial institution cancelled its lavish Wimbledon hospitality plans.

Meanwhile, reputation-saving efforts over at Barclays, engulfed in the ongoing interest rate rigging scandal, have taken a more drastic turn as the resignation of the bank's chief executive, Bob Diamond, was announced this morning. This was after chairman Marcus Agius chose to take one for the interest-rate-rigging-team and retire hurt.

But restoring the reputations of NatWest, RBS and Barclays demands a bigger play than cancelled corporate largesse, a forced resignation and early retirement.

Not even consumer inertia, a key plank in high street banking’s business model, can be relied on anymore. The Guardian reports that the Co-operative Bank is seeing a 25% increase in online applications, week on week, that Nationwide has had a flurry of enquiries from customers keen to leave their current banks.

Ironically, NatWest’s call handler passed Marketing’s ‘Mole’ test with flying colours (see this week's issue).  How disillusioned and let-down must he and his colleagues feel?

Adding disgruntled staff to departing customers can only compound this summer of discontent for British banking’s unravelling brand.

Remember the Shareholder Spring? The spectre of that revolt, and news that Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a parliamentary review of the banking sector, suggests this consumer backlash is far from over.

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