Britannia left at a loss over `profitable' accounts

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The Independent Online
NAWAB KHAN is one of the few people to receive flowers as well as mortgage and insurance offers from his building society.

Until yesterday, he was unused to such attention from the manager at his Britannia branch, where he has pounds 1,700 in a savings account and has never been overdrawn.

A new Britannia computer system has marked out careful customers such as Mr Khan, 46, as those who generate least profit. It even selected him for special attention from Gerald Gregory, Britannia's marketing director, who, at a recent conference, said the least profitable of the building society's 2.5 million customers was "a newsagent from Blackburn".

Mr Khan, the only one of the Lancashire town's 70 newsagents with a Britannia account, found himself under public scrutiny yesterday and was understandably stung. "I want to see my manager and I may move my account somewhere where it is more welcome," he said.

The Britannia rushed flowers to Mr Khan and his wife and apologised for the slight. But even as its regrets were uttered news emerged that Mr Khan is not, after all, the Britannia's least profitable customer.

The building society confirmed that the title does belong to someone in "the Blackburn area" but not Mr Khan, who is regarded as a "reasonably profitable" customer. A spokesman said: "There's no cost in running [Mr Khan's] account because he is putting no money in or out. A low balance account which is highly used is the least profitable. A customer with a pounds 100 balance who puts pounds 10 in and takes pounds 10 out is the biggest drain on processing resources."

But Mr Khan is not yet mollified. He works seven days a week to support his wife and five children and pay for a seven-bedroom home, without being forced to dip into his savings. "I have a current account elsewhere and this is a savings account so I can't go into the red," he said.

It was because he had neither borrowed nor took up any of the Britannia's services that he was labelled unprofitable by a new profiling system that identifies customer types labelled "Malcolm Moderate", "Spencer Speculator" and "Sidney Shrewd".