So what is the future of the Lloyds brands? A few years ago there were scores of shiny brands heralded by armies of marketeers from both Lloyds and HBOS, but now it seems the industry is dwindling into a handful of global, super brands – will the inevitable consolidation swallow up some adviser favourites?
Sources have told Money Marketing that the Lloyds super bank has begun its assessment of its plethora of brands – Halifax, Lloyds TSB, Cheltenham & Gloucester, BM Solutions, Bank of Scotland, Intelligent Finance, Scottish Widows, Clerical Medical – but what will stay and what will go? Today the super bank had its first AGM since the merger with HBOS, so much will have been said as to the future of the Lloyds Banking Group family. First Action Finance head of communications Jonathan Cornell says: “It’s safe to assume that running all the brands doesn’t make sense.”
Obviously BOS is likely to stay; it’s a symbol of Scotland, it holds too much political weight. As a brand it has been at the centre of much of the UK’s mortgage crisis, but it still issues bank notes and even if it were to retreat north of the border it would always remain. As Corelco director Andy Montlake says: “How could you even think of dropping BOS?”.
The same could be said of Halifax; Cornell calls it the “cornerstone of UK mortgages”, the largest provider and arguably the strongest brand within the group. It adorns every high street, has one of the largest gross shares of the mortgage and savings market and would be very difficult to replace.
John Charcol senior technical manager Ray Boulger says: “I would expect that, because it is making the decision, Lloyds will not drop its own brands”. He may be right; Lloyds TSB continues to be a huge presence on high streets all over the UK, and C&G is a popular mortgage brand, neither is likely to disappear.
As for Scottish Widows and Clerical medical, the group has already revealed that Widows is the winner. No surprise from many advisers on that decision.
So are the most likely casualties to be HBOS’ BM and IF? Speaking to advisers, many are surprised that IF has not been promoted in this downturn because offset is fast becoming one of the most popular choices in this low rate environment, but the brand has been very quiet while Woolwich take offset market share. Could IF be the next to go? Or could its products be moved over to one of its stronger neighbours?
So the real tough one to call is BM. It’s clearly the adviser favourite by quite a way – it’s systems and its services have always come out tops through the last few years and it continues to be revered by anyone who has used it. The brand is strong and from an intermediary perspective it beats all the others. The problem is it was a self-cert and buy-to-let specialist, which leaves it out in the cold somewhat. C&G offers a comparable product suite also, so can BM condone its survival on reputation alone?
Then, of course, there is the human element to consider – according to Unite, Lloyds has shed almost 3,000 jobs this year – would brand scrapping lead to more redundancies?
It would be nice if advisers got a say in the future of the UK’s largest banking group, but it will be a decision based ultimately on pounds and pennies, not on popularity. What brand do you think will go? What deserves to stay? Or is a brand just another name offering another product?