With a little nudge from Brussels, the government has decided to break up the state backed mega-banks into smaller retail banks, a bit like the ones we used to have in the olden days. These are going to be Boring Banks, says Alistair Darling. The ones older people will remember and younger people might have read about or seen in old TV programmes. The sort we used to have when everyone knew and respected the bank manager; banks that made sound investments using the savings of thrifty depositors. No casino banking and trading in exotic financial instruments for these chaps. No, this is going back to banking as it should be. As if the underline this message, there is talk of restoring many of the old names to the high street. We’ll have the Trustee Savings Bank again and the staid but prudent Williams and Glyn’s. Who knows, if RBS is split up even further we might even see National Provincial back again.
Ah, the tinkling of the old pub joanna as I pop in for a light-and-bitter. The shouts of the newspaper sellers, the ring of the bells on the red buses. Bowler-hatted gents walking to the station and and cloth-capped workers cycling away from the factory as the whistle blows. And isn’t that old Mr Mainwaring locking up the bank after a hard days work? Regular as clockwork; you could set your watch by him.
It’s all bollocks of course. If anything, the finance for the new banks will be even more exotic than that which got their previous owners into so much trouble. Secretive US private equity funds, unknown foreign investors fronted by Richard Branson, Gulf oil barons and, in the greatest irony of all, sovereign wealth funds are among the most likely new owners of these quaint old names. It may be that Steely Neely simply forces a change in ownership from one state to another.
They might be given names from the 1950s but these will be 21st century banks in every way that counts.