The international operations of Santander’s three British banking divisions are to be spared the Spanish banking group’s comprehensive rebranding, announced today.
The rebranding will see all of Britain’s Abbey and Alliance & Leicester branches, and many of its Bradford & Bingleys, take on the name of their parent by the end of next year.
Also to be spared re-naming will be the bank’s other so-called “specialised-market brands”, including its Abbey for Intermediaries, cahoot, Cater Allen and James Hay operations, Santander said.
The Bradford & Bingley operations not acquired by Santander, which bought B&B’s savings business last year during the banking crisis, are also to retain their name, at least for now. These have been owned by the UK Government since last year, as a result of the troubles that hit Britain’s banking sector in 2008 and resulted in the part nationalisation of several UK banking giants.
1,300 new signs by 2011
Beginning next year, some 1,300 branches of Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley will be transformed into units of Santander.
Santander said the rebranding, far from being a cosmetic change, “will deliver a significant advantage” for these banks’ customers, as they will be able to use “1,000 branches from early 2010, rising to 1,300 by the end of 2010”.
It did not say how many, if any, branches were expected to be closed as part of its consolidation, but observers believe some closures are inevitable in some places where the three formerly competing banks are close together. In December, the company announced it would lay off some 1,900 employees of the three UK banks, or about 8% of Santander’s British workforce.
The changeover to the Santander branding by its UK subsidiaries reflects the Santander’s intention of operating globally under a single brand name, the bank said, adding that its switch to a global IT platform known as Partenon – to which it has migrated its Abbey branches over the last three years – will enable it to move more rapidly to incorporate the B&B and A&L operations.
It said it expects to complete the switch of all B&B’s 338 branches by July, and A&L’s 254 branches by the end of 2010.
“As a global brand, the flame logo and Santander name [are] now seen in over 40 countries around the world,” Santander said.
The loss of the three banking brands – all of which date back more than 150 years – come as other long-time British brands have been consigned to history, or are about to be. These include Clerical Medical, as reported earlier this month in International Adviser, following its recent acquisition by Lloyds Banking Group.
Earlier this year, another British institution, Woolworth’s, bit the dust after almost 100 years.
Antonio Hórta-Osório, chief executive of Santander’s UK businesses, said it was important for customers who travel around the UK to have 1,300 branches in which to transact their banking business.
He added that the move would also enable Santander’s UK operations to benefit from “the expertise and product developments from Santander’s global business”.