Big promises equal big disappointments, so think before you commit

If you’re of a certain age, and you live in the UK, chances are you’ll recognise the line ‘the bank that likes to say…yes’In fact, you can probably still sing along with the jingle, which is right up there with ‘A Finger of Fudge’ and ‘A Mars a day (helps you work, rest and play)’. Yes, it’s TSB of course. Trustee Savings Bank, with its distinctive logo showing each initial in a circle. The TV ad dates from the early 1980s (yes, I gasped too) and it demonstrates just how powerful and memorable a tagline and a tune can be. TSB was taken over by Lloyds, which became Lloyds TSB. And then, when the global banking crisis hit, the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, with the government (aka you and me) as stakeholders. Now, to try and recoup some of the money spent on that stake, they’re hiving off parts of the bank. And out of the ashes rises the TSB phoenix. Over 600 branches are to open across the country. Millions of customers, I read, would have their accounts moved across automatically. New customers could easily switch from their existing bank to TSB. And opening an account would take less than ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes – I gasped a second time. Big promises. But could they really deliver? I decided to put the ten-minute challenge to the test.

Quick march

And you know what? It really was ten minutes, give or take a few seconds. The website was basic, but functional. It asked simple questions, didn’t pry too much, and gave me a clear indication of progress. I was waiting for the inevitable problem (I’ve taken similar challenges before) but it never came. Ten minutes later, and I was done. All I had to do was wait, and they’d confirm everything by post. So I waited. And waited. And no, I’m not going to say that I’m still waiting, because I’m not. They did eventually (almost two weeks later) write to me. And I didn’t really mind the delay – I imagined them frantically processing thousands of new applications, and transitioning those millions of existing customers across. When the letter did come, with its 80s retro logo, I was pretty excited (yes, I know, it doesn’t take that much). But just think: I’d opened an account in ten minutes. It had gone with out a hitch. They really were the bank that likes to say ‘yes’. And here was the welcome letter with my account details, to be followed by my debit card and internet banking details. Or so I thought. But it was not to be. For when I opened the letter, my hopes were dashed.
Dear Mr Walsh, Thank you for your recent application for a Current account. Unfortunately due to a technical error on our system we cannot activate the account, and you will therefore need to go into your local TBS branch to open the account. Please take your identification document with you. We apologise for the inconvenience caused. Yours sincerely, Michael Walsh Operations Manager
You couldn’t make it up, could you? Right down to the surname, it had a touch of the surreal. (And yes, they did capitalise ‘Current’.) A sort of banking version of the dead parrot sketch. Could it get any worse? Of course it could. I went on to the TSB site to check where my local branch was. I tried my postcode and ‘Cambridge’ but it gave me an error message. OK, so maybe there aren’t any branches here yet. But when I tried ‘London’ I got the same result. In other words, no result. So I gave up.

Numbers game

It appears I’m not alone, though the damage in my case is minimal. At least I have a fully functioning account with another bank, and don’t really need this one. Some Lloyds customers have been locked out of their accounts for over a week. Many others are seriously unhappy about being moved over to the new, resurrected TSB. The website crashed when it was launched, which probably accounts for the back-end problems they’ve had opening my account. All in all, a pretty poor showing. The message is simple: if you’re thinking big, plan bigger. If you’re going to promise, you should make sure you can deliver. Ten minutes should mean just that. And websites should work first time, every time. If you’re launching a bank and moving 4.5m customers, you need to have a robust back-end (and a robust rear end when you come in for a kicking if you don’t deliver). 30 years on, and I can still sing along with the jingle. In fact, it’s the subliminal power of the tagline that made me apply for the account. But decades of naive belief have now been swept away by the cold waters of reality. And by the bank that likes to say no. Find out more: