The Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley banking brands are set to disappear from the UK high street from the beginning of next year, as part of a national rebranding by their Spanish parent group, Santander.
In a move that will see the disappearance of the Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford and Bingley banking brands from the UK, the Spanish parent group plans to rebrand them as Santander under the groups name. All 1,000 branches of Abbey & Bradford & Bingley will be renamed from the first quarter of 2010 as Santander. Alliance & Leicster's 300 branches will complete the name transition by the end of the year.
With the change, customers of Abbey, Alliance & Leicester or Bradford & Bingley Savings will be able to transact business across the 1,300 branches thanks to the IT integration work being undertaken simultaneously.
The Spanish company said the move will enable its 25 million customers to access hundreds of branches from early next year and in addition a global banking network across 40 countries, thus delivering a significant consumer advantage.
Banking analysts are, however, not convinced and have warned that the best-value savings accounts and mortgages offered by individual brands may no longer be available with the amalgamation.
Analysts say that consumers will need to be watchful as to see how the change will affect them as the consolidation process will likely hit some customers. Currently, there are three brands with different product offerings and different customer propositions, they say. Individually Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley and Abbey had on offer some well priced, good value products that offered better terms than the big four clearing banks, the say.
They point out that Alliance & Leicester currently has one of the 'best-buy' current accounts offering an interest rate of 4.89 per cent, including and introductory bonus, on balances of up to £2,500.
However, Alliance & Leicester's current account offers were not open to existing Abbey current account customers following Santander's takeover for Alliance & Leicester in 2008.
The move will reduce consumer choice on the high street, following the merger of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and Lloyds TSB in January this year.
Analysts say that a brand consolidation would inevitably lead to reduction in choice and competition and hope that Santander would continue to challenge the main high street banks offering good value products and excellent customer service.
But, according to the banking group's UK chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio, the bank would continue to offer better value-for-money products than competitors and remain committed to maintaining its branch network and the teams that run them. He insisted that customers would not lose out.
''Our prudent approach and focus on branch-based banking enabled us to acquire the A&L and B&B savings business in 2008, despite unprecedented market turmoil. Since then, we've applied the same principles to both, improving the products and services we offer as well as the business performance of each bank,'' he said.
Santander stands to save £180 million a year once its UK brands are merged under the bank's single brand.