The table shows the main independent British retail banks, in order of market capitalisation. The list is quite short as British banking has been highly consolidated since the early 20th century.
Unlike some other major economies, the UK does not have a major stratum of independent local banks. The list shrank further during 2008: Northern Rock was nationalised by the UK Government (and is now owned by Virgin Money), followed by Bradford & Bingley; Alliance & Leicester was acquired by Santander, who merged it into Santander UK. Lloyds TSB plc, on 18 September 2008, a confirmed agreement to take over HBOS plc.
In lots of ways, comments about UK banks not competing aggressively seem overly harsh.
For years now, they have all been battling to disgrace themselves in increasingly outrageous ways, while also pioneering more and more creative ways in which to further irk their shareholders.
We saw it again last week, when Royal Bank of Scotland slumped to a £2bn half-year loss and HSBC reported a 29% fall in first-half profits to $9.7bn – both of which came with a string of legal and regulatory warnings.
But this week, prepare for the focus to switch – when we’ll ask whether these institutions have been striving so hard to win in the humiliation stakes that they’ve forgotten to compete for the benefit of their customers.
The Competition and Markets Authority has been investigating the supply of personal current accounts and of banking services to small- and medium-sized enterprises – and on Tuesday it will publish a summary of its final report.
The CMA has shown only slightly more appetite for addressing these questions than the bankers – having previously stated that banks must cap overdraft charges, while still allowing them to decide where to set the cap. Cynics have suggested that there may be a slight flaw in that plan. Rival suggestions could be sought.
Pru set to dent low strike numbers
As you may have read last week, the number of workers that went on strike in Britain last year was the lowest recorded in more than 120 years.
Official figures show that 81,000 workers were involved in strike action in 2015, down from 733,300 in 2014 and the smallest number since records began in 1893 (the previous low was 93,000 in 1998 and 2005).
When statisticians first began noting down those records, the insurance firm Prudential was in middle age, having already been operating for 45 years. It hasn’t troubled the industrial action scorers massively since then but, as we approach its results this week, the company is threatening to get its name on the score-sheet later this year after devising one of those schemes to outsource jobs to India.
Prudential employees based in Reading are now being balloted by the union Unite on strike action over the plans, which will see 75 jobs dealing with annuities being filled in Mumbai. Prudential says demand for annuities has slumped while Unite reckons the plan will save around £2m – which seems neat: new Pru UK boss John Foley can earn a maximum yearly salary and bonus of about, er, £2m.
Dinner party topic going flat
Is the south-east of England’s favourite dinner party conversation topic about to crash?
This is, of course, the most pressing concern for a chunk of the population post Brexit: can they deflect attention from how they’ve messed up the latest Yotam Ottolenghi recipe by bragging about how much their property portfolio has soared?
The evidence is beginning to come in – albeit in ways that frequently allow each side to see whatever they wish.
Last week a survey by Halifax, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, suggested that house prices fell 1% last month after the vote to leave the EU, which followed figures from its rival Nationwide a week earlier, showing prices rising 0.5% in July. Meanwhile, economists at French bank Société Générale have said London prices could fall 30% and halve in the most expensive boroughs; Foxtons and other estate agents have warned that business has slowed sharply since the referendum (every cloud and all that); while the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has predicted a slump in property transactions, with its members more gloomy about prospects than at any point since the late 1990s. Rics’s take on the housing market in July will be published this week. Developing.