Vox pop

Abbey National is banking on a return to branch basics to revive its brand, emphasising individual advice to differentiate its offer. What do you make of this strategy and is it enough to improve the financial services provider’s fortunes?

‘Abbey National has taken its eye of the ball, but [chief executive] Luqman Arnold’s comments are spot on in terms of refocusing the business. Like most retail banks in the UK, Abbey has been weak at treating customers as individuals, so if it’s going to become customer-centric it must start talking to customers in their language, not just more bank-speak.’

Aubrey Ghose, Creative director, Allen International

‘Financial products are intangible. This fact, combined with increasing product complexity, heightens the need to know who is selling to you. Abbey’s emphasis on personal service is a move in the right direction. But many financial services brands appear to be similar. Success depends on cultivating believable brand values and qualifying how they relate to customers.’

Adam Devey Smith, Director, Checkland Kindleysides

‘When life gets difficult people often look back to happier times for answers. But that can be dangerous if it doesn’t take account of the changes that are driving the market forward – in this case, pressure on margins and competition from the phone and Net. Maybe Abbey has found clever ways of delivering its “new” promise. I hope so – I’d like to see it back on top.’

Clare Fuller, Director, Roundel

‘Is this strategy going to give Abbey a distinctive positioning in an already crowded marketplace over and above the likes of NatWest? Any success will depend on implementation and how it positions itself. If Abbey is banking on a revival in the high street it will be dependent on a high street revival too. It must be careful not to ignore other routes to market.’

Neil Walker, Creative partner, CDT Design

‘The previous senior management of Abbey clearly didn’t understand the concept of brand or permission to brand stretch. There was risky leverage of a strong mortgage and retail banking customer base into diverse corporate markets going south. Arnold is right to retrench to the basic brand footprint and hope that over time the market will tease out some suitors for a take-over. What is the structural problem that this brand has? Possibly, it’s service delivery.’

Simon Williams, Chief executive, Icon Brand Navigation

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