Tuesday, December 08, 2009

LLoyds Bank: the fat cats that got the sour cream

Lloyds Bank always enjoyed a reputation for being staid and stalwart - the last sort of bank that would do anything foolish. Indeed, when its champagne socialist Chairman, Victor Blank, did a deal with Gordon Brown over a cocktail party to save what amounted to the entire Scottish economy and any hope of Labour ever winning another seat in Scotland, by bailing out HBOS and its various allied disaster zones, there was an air of triumphalism that the cautious tortoise had won some sort of race with the reckless hares of the banking industry.

We now know rather better. Lloyds' many small shareholders reflected the prudent and conservative nature that the bank had always projected up to that point - and now after 85% dilution, they have been and truly sacrificed on the altar of Brown's cunning, and Blank's hubris.

Many Lloyds customers are similarly dissatisfied with the performance of the bank at the basic functions of being a simple bank, never mind all that nonsense about wheeling and dealing and saving nations - and political hides - including us. So TMP went googling for alternatives business account providers - and the site linked below at the top of the google search for reviews of business banking - and lead to this page where Lloyds is rated by its customers: "1.2 out of 5", with respondents complaining that they were not able to rate Lloyds service with "0" - because the range on offer was 1-5.


However, the same site largely confirms that the mainstream clearing banks are pretty much regarded as equally dire by all their victims. Alliance and Leicester appeared to score better than most and always boasts winning customer surveys - but a call through to them suggests that they are no better, and about to become fully "Santander, and thus imbued with the same "maƱana" attitude that now seems to blight O2 since Spain's Telefonica took it over.

So it's the devil we know for a while longer until someone comes along with a really different and better proposition. Most banks seem to think that free banking is a big deal; but trust us, you grotesquely overweight felines, we're perfectly happy to pay for competent banking - so try and see if you can still remember how to provide it?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Well then, it's the turnips

Brown's miracle cure seems to be getting the finger from the market.

In the UK, Lloyds long suffering shareholders are livid that Gordon's drinking pal Lloyds' Chairman (for the time being...) Victor Blank swallowed the punitive terms of the cash quite so readily in the rush for HBOS and its wonderful mortgage and retail businesses, and effectively wrote off the value of Lloyds shares for the next 5 years!

And this seems to have set the the tone for a general reaction to all the indicators that the economy is indeed, deep in the Brown stuff. The FTSE is still plumbing the depths. Unemployment is up, and the government cannot spin them any harder to hide the truth.

Of all the banks, Lloyds was least exposed to the toxic market, mostly because it was dozing quietly for the past few years, almost devoid of ambition to do anything more than sweep up as many small retail bank accounts as possible, when they got the feeling their competitors had taken their eye of that steady if unexciting "bread and butter" ball. So what are they now doing on their (shareholders') knees, with their shareholders holding the unwanted, unlovely and extremely bastard offspring of messrs Broon and Blank?

But far from "swivelling", Brown leaves Harriet Harperson in charge as he sweeps through the corridors of international power on his familiar cushion of self-importance and hubris as he tries desperately to leverage his temporary omniscience to set up a global conference on finance and trade, to "prevent excessive risk". That's fine by us, since clearly the biggest risk we face as a nation is the possibility of Labour remaining in charge of the UK.

Listen up Gordon, we STILL have not been told exactly what went wrong and why - so how come you know all about fixing it? It just might be as simple as a series of criminal acts of evasion of perfectly adequate existing regulations, coupled to dopey regulators that were not up to the job - and the dubious collusion of politicians that were determined to believe in the continued existence of the credit fairy, which had been so handy for securing feelgood votes.

In fact, if you do know so much about fixing it, then it begs the question why did you allow it to happen in the first place? Or will you conveniently try to hang that one on the old sleasemeister Blair: "I voz only following orders, mein Fuhrer..."

Since this is mostly about a crisis of confidence, then just maybe people have no confidence in his ability to continue to govern ? Sooner or later he's going to be rumbled for what his old boss Blair always understood him to be: an obsessive control freak, creative with numbers, devoid of vision. And now properly undone by the most laughable statement of modern political times:

"There will be no more Boom and Bust"

Which works very well as an epitaph.

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