Money Insider: Rebranded Santander will keep up to speed

From Monday we saw Abbey and Bradford & Bingley (savings) officially rebranded as Santander UK plc, with the Alliance & Leicester part of the jigsaw due to fall in to place before the end of the year.

While some customers may find losing the familiar name tag of Bradford & Bingley or Abbey a little unsettling, I don't think they've got too much to worry about.

Santander is a global player with a prudent track record and has remained focused on business as usual while some competitors were distracted by the bank bailout fiasco last year.

The new combined bank will have around 25 million UK customers, so should be a major financial force on the high street and in a position to compete with some of the bigger and more established banks in this country.

There has been a noticeable increase in the competitiveness of products offered since Santander took control of Abbey with the Zero credit card and more recently the Zero charges current account option showing that they are serious about improving market share.

In recent years both Abbey and Alliance & Leicester have been extremely competitive in the current account and personal loan sectors and there's no reason that this rebrand should see that competitive edge diminish.

There may be concerns regarding lack of competition with three well-known banking names disappearing from our high streets during 2010 and being replaced by the single Santander brand, however with some new providers potentially entering the fray, possibly as soon as later this year (such as Virgin Bank, Tesco Bank, Metro Bank) the Spanish giant can't afford to become complacent or relax the competitiveness of its product pricing.

One of the stiffest challenges for Santander is to improve its reputation for customer service. It's an area to which they have paying particular attention, including the introduction of a state-of-the-art computer platform which allows staff to access all customer information from a single point.

Service is equally as important as the price of products in many people's eyes, so it's an area that Santander will have to get right.

Mortgages

The mortgage market continues to be a hive of activity, with the soon-to-be-merged Yorkshire and Chelsea building societies both bringing out attractive new products in the last seven days.

Yorkshire Building Society has a one-year fix at just 3.19 per cent and a very low fee of £195 at 75 per cent loan to value, a fairly niche product that may appeal to those who are happy to sit tight for a while longer. But with murmurings from some quarters predicting that base rate may start to rise as soon as late summer, a five-year fix at 4.99 per cent with £495 fee to 75 per cent LTV may turn out to be a more attractive proposition.

Chelsea Building Society has now joined the mêlée in the two-year fixed arena with a very keenly priced 3.75 per cent rate and £995 fee for anyone with a deposit of 25 per cent or more, while away from fixed rates, ING Direct is now a clear front runner in the two-year tracker market with a 2.54 per cent rate and £795 fee to 60 per cent loan to value.

Unfortunately it's not all positive news, with more lenders choosing to increase the rate charged on their Standard Variable Rate (SVR). The low interest rate environment has led to some smaller building societies making a difficult commercial decision to increase the rate on their SVR over the last few months and in some instances these now stand as high as 5.95 per cent.

Some people will be comfortable to remain on their lender's SVR, whereas others may be biding their time until a rate rise becomes more of a certainty before switching to the security of a new fixed rate product.

Savings latest

Positive news in the savings market has been in short supply in the first two weeks of 2010, with some fixed rate bonds being pulled and others seeing rates trimmed back. The best deal on a one-year bond now stands at just 3.65 per cent with FirstSave, whereas a couple of months back rates as high as 3.95 per cent were on offer.

Coventry Building Society is sitting at the top of the tree with the latest version of its popular 1st class postal account paying a variable rate of 3.30 per cent Gross/AER. This postal-operated account offers a decent rate, including a 1.30 per cent AER bonus for the first 12 months plus the flexibility of four penalty-free withdrawals each year.

The appetite for new savings has certainly fallen away recently with rates on fixed rate accounts and ISAs now starting to look a little tired. If the savings habit is to return, then we need to see a renewed appetite and some better rates from providers, and sooner rather than later.

Andrew Hagger is a money analyst at Moneynet.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments