Chief executive Peter Birch believes there is no advantage for Abbey to pick up the problems and incur the immense unpopularity for the few hundred million pounds the integration could save. Abbey National's future was more likely to lie in further growth, diversification and acquisitions, a spokesman said yesterday. Its stated aim is to derive 50 per cent of its profit from non-traditional activities by the year 2000. The figure is already 40 per cent.
The board of Abbey National rejected the idea of discussing a pounds 25bn merger with National Westminster Bank on the grounds that Abbey would be handed the unwelcome task of integrating the retail banking divisions and taking responsibility for widespread branch closures, redundancies and customer dissatisfaction. NatWest would meanwhile have the more glamorous task of creating an international mega-bank, which City wags christened Westminster Abbey.