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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Financial Controller

    £45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

    £22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash