TSB to boldly go back to local banking

Why Paul Pester, who heads the newly launched bank, had to convince Star Trek star Sir Patrick Stewart he was genuine

It seemed entirely logical for the chief executive of the newly launched TSB to ask Star Trek captain Jean-Luc Picard to be the voice of the brand. After all, Paul Pester, a Cambridge doctor of physics with a Spock-like intellect, reasoned that Mr Picard, (well, Sir Patrick Stewart anyway), had a familiar voice that TSB’s 4.6 million customers would trust.

But when the request went in, he was shocked to be told “No”. Sir Patrick did not want to be associated with a bank. After all, banks are bad, right? They create misery with their bonus-fuelled casino gambling ways and end up costing taxpayers billions. But the actor hadn’t banked on Mr Pester’s persistence. As Mr Pester recalls: “I wrote to him personally and said ‘we’re not like that sort of bank’. We’re about local banking, helping the local community.”

The letter worked, and a couple of weeks ago, in Los Angeles, Sir Patrick did the voiceover.

It’s an anecdote that speaks volumes about the message Mr Pester wants to give about the TSB, which went live on our high streets yesterday. TSB will not do any of the “socially useless” banking its rivals conduct, he says, citing the phrase coined by Adair Turner, who was at McKinsey with Mr Pester in a previous life.

“So do not come to our bank if you want your investments to go into derivatives, investment banking, large corporates overseas. We will be all about using customers’ deposits to help create local economic growth. We are doing what is right for Britain and trying to right some of the wrongs of the banking industry.”

Although the branch signs may look new, like his glass-walled office and open-plan City headquarters, TSB is not, of course. Its 631 branches are actually those that Lloyds was ordered to dispose of by the European Union after the taxpayer bailout following its disastrous takeover of HBOS. Those 4.6 million customers aren’t new either. They have been moved from Lloyds under a deal whereby, if they want to remain with Lloyds, they’ll have to transfer, with all the hassle that entails.

The branches were, of course, destined to fall into the hands of the Co-op, before the small matter of a £1.5bn black hole emerged in the bidder’s accounts. Now, Lloyds has opted to float it as a standalone company instead.

As such, Mr Pester is keen to give TSB its own, distinct personality: a real alternative choice to the big boys. “We are here with a really clear mandate to bring more competition to UK banking,” he says. “How are we going to do that? By bringing a local banking model back to Britain.”

Analysts say this message – of a clean, trustworthy retail bank – is similar to that being espoused by Lloyds. Indeed, the TSB’s products are still Lloyds products, the staff still mainly Lloyds staff. Some argue that Mr Pester, who remains an employee of Lloyds until the flotation next year, will have a hard task differentiating from its bailed-out, PPI mis-selling old parent. But he is making the right noises.

The website will soon have real-time data backing up Mr Pester’s spiel about “local” lending; it will show where in the country banks take deposits and where it lends them. He’s planning clear explanations online for customers about how the bank makes its money. He is pushing hard the tale of the Rev Henry Duncan, who set up the first Trustee Savings Bank in Scotland in 1810 to help working class families manage their erratic wages.

If Mr Pester seems an old hand at getting across the message of new, or newish, business, it’s because he is. He launched Virgin Money for Sir Richard Branson. Then he led the integration of Santander’s various divisions. Even at McKinsey in 1995 he was launching new businesses, helping the BBC create its digital strategy.

Geraint Davies, an old chum from his first job after Cambridge, at a consultancy called Scientific Generics, says he got his first taste for launches there, albeit at an operation that was not entirely successful: “He was selected to run a Tokyo office. It was a hospital pass really – but he went and gave it the best go anyone could. He had such dedication and commitment.”

Mr Davies recalls that in those days Mr Pester was “more triangular” in physique. He was a competitive swimmer at national level, even racing in the same squad as olympic medalist Sharron Davies. Nowadays he has the lean torso of the triathlete – on Sunday he did the North Norfolk Triathlon.

Such toughness is reflected in his mental make-up, according to a former colleague from McKinsey, William Vaughan-Lewis. Referring to the Co-op shenanigans, he says: “Paul’s extremely resilient. You saw that with him over the last year at Lloyds. It must have been very hard for him with all the to-ings and fro-ings. But he has stuck with it.”

Mr Pester refuses to be drawn on the Co-op fiasco other than to describe it as a “soap opera” and say the flotation is the best option for the bank. That’s a spectacular understatement. Had the Co-op deal gone ahead he would have been playing the lead not in a soap, but a tragedy.

Man at the top: The boss's biography

Paul Pester, chief executive of TSB

Age: 49

Education: Tamar High School, Plymouth. Manchester University (First in Physics). Oxford University (Phd in Physics)

Career: McKinsey,

Car: Range Rover

Reading: Why Nations Fail: Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
 The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian

Last track played on iPod: “Echoes” by Pink Floyd

Hobbies: Triathlons, surfing, sailing, renovating house in Norfolk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis