Home Money JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Nationwide is the ‘last’ bank in Windsor- and it’s a sign of things to come

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Nationwide is the ‘last’ bank in Windsor- and it’s a sign of things to come

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Spot on: Dominic West in the Nationwide TV advert and, to the right, the sign outside Windsor

There is a spring in the step of those good people who run Nationwide – by a country mile, the country’s largest building society. They have just agreed to buy rival Virgin Money, and have the banks firmly on the defensive over their collective propensity to remove branches like dead wood.

Having recently upset its banking rivals with a slick TV advert featuring Dominic West as a swaggering, milkshake-drinking, branch-destroying banker, Nationwide has now dealt another blow to the banks.

This time, he has put up a sign next to a road outside Windsor, Berkshire, which reads: “You are now leaving Windsor.” Like the big banks. Beneath these words, he adds: “Unlike the big banks, we are here to stay.”

Unlike the fictional character it created for its ad, Nationwide is absolutely right about Windsor. This glorious royal city lost its last banks just over six months ago when Barclays and HSBC closed their branches within a day of each other. Other banks – Lloyds, Metro, NatWest and Santander – had long since left the city.

As a result, Nationwide is the last ‘bank’ standing and, as part of a commitment made last June, will not leave Windsor or any other town or city in which it has a presence until at least 2026. The only other bank The The bank that made something of a similar promise about branches is HSBC, which said late last year that it would not announce any more closures this year. So far he has kept his word.

Spot on: Dominic West in the Nationwide TV advert and, to the right, the sign outside Windsor

Spot on: Dominic West in the Nationwide TV advert and, to the right, the sign outside Windsor

I hope Nationwide will soon put up similar signs in the cities where it is now the last “bank” standing. According to veteran community banking advocate Derek French, Windsor is one of 37 largest cities (population over 15,000) where Nationwide is the only “bank” present.

Interestingly, French says, these 37 cities should qualify for a banking center (a community bank funded by all the big banking brands). But since Nationwide is still in town, the banks won’t finance them.

Shameful.

Regarding the Nationwide TV advert that has so upset the banks, Santander has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It argues that the ad is misleading about bank branch closures, while denigrating and discrediting competitors.

On Friday, the ASA told me its investigation into complaints surrounding Nationwide’s advertising campaign was “ongoing”.

Although the ad is a little naughty, especially when Mr. West mocks a customer who wants to speak to a branch manager about the loss of his life savings (“total yawn fest”), I trust that the ASA decides that Nationwide has no reason to do so. answer.

Because? First, Nationwide is right to mock banks for closing branches. Since ATM network Link began compiling a list of closure announcements in early February 2022, 1,325 branches have closed or been told they will close soon.

Of these, only 22 are national (all before the June 2023 commitment). While Santander has only announced six closures during the same period, it closed 111 in 2021.

Secondly, isn’t it great to see a financial announcement that for once makes you laugh instead of yawning out loud? I’d rather see Dominic West’s pompous banker any day on horses (admittedly beautiful to look at) galloping through the Sussex countryside in an effort to convince us that Lloyds will always be by our side.

A branch worthy of the Bard…

Like many of you, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to bank branches, both old and existing.

Very often I marvel at its architectural magnificence and its imposing presence on the main street.

Such was the case eight days ago when I spent a pleasant afternoon poking around Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, visiting the house in which William Shakespeare was brought up and the nearby church (Holy Trinity) where he is buried.

Iconic: HSBC's stunning Stratford branch

Iconic: HSBC's stunning Stratford branch

Iconic: HSBC’s stunning Stratford branch

As I walked through the streets, I was struck by the presence of all the big banks in the city: Barclays, NatWest (located in a building quite out of date with the rest of the city), Lloyds and Santander.

Good for Stratford, I say. May they remain open for a long time.

But what took my breath away was the imposing HSBC branch: a huge Victorian Gothic building built from red brick and terracotta.

I haven’t seen a branch this flashy in a while, and it’s still open to the public (at least until the end of this year, or hopefully even longer).

The branch’s origins date back to 1810, when three local businessmen founded the Stratford Old Bank.

The firm issued its own banknotes, adorned with an image of the bard’s head.

In fact, the words “Old Bank” remain above its front door to this day with a mosaic of the Bard just below.

The branch eventually became part of Midland (the precursor to HSBC) in 1914 and remains on the program of many Shakespeare walking tours run daily in the city.

The branch is a listed building and it is a credit to HSBC that it has maintained its integrity, even when it was refurbished four years ago.

  • Is there a bank branch that catches your attention architecturally? If so, please email me at jeff.prestridge@mailonsunday.co.uk.

Window to chaos in Brum…

It was lovely to spend some time after my mother’s funeral ten days ago to reacquaint myself with Birmingham, the city in which I grew up.

Highlights of the day included a visit to Birmingham Cathedral, which I passed at least 200 times without even entering.

Standing and marveling at the four exquisite stained glass windows, designed by Pre-Raphaelite (and Brummie) artist Edward Burne-Jones, was a joyful experience. They are fascinating.

I also enjoyed the Victorian Radicals exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where more of Burne-Jones’ sublime works (paintings rather than stained glass) were on display.

The exhibition runs until the end of October and is worth every penny of the £11 entry fee.

Birmingham has progressed since I left at the age of 18 towards academia and ultimately the bright lights of London.

It is therefore worrying to learn that Labour-led Birmingham City Council has found itself in a dire financial bind which will result in near double-digit increases in council tax bills next month – and savage budget cuts.

Nothing will be saved: adult social care, children’s services, arts support and local libraries.

What a great shame. The Labor Council’s mismanagement, perpetuated by Government funding cuts, now threatens the very fabric of the city.

A harbinger of the future under a free-spending, heavily taxed Labor government? Only time will tell.

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