David Prosser: Tesco has a bright future in banking

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The Independent Online

Outlook Tesco's launch of a new personal finance customer service centre in Glasgow yesterday gave the Chancellor a handy opportunity to crow about the creation of 800 new jobs on his first day standing in for the Prime Minister. But the staff Alistair Darling met in Glasgow are likely to be much busier than him in the years to come.

The supermarket's move towards launching a full-scale banking service, including the offer of current accounts and mortgages, seems to be proceeding at pace. It will certainly never have a better opportunity to make a real splash in the market, given the opprobrium still being heaped in the way of the traditional banking sector.

Nor is Tesco taking a leap in the dark. Its personal finance business is already worth getting on for £2bn and has healthy shares of several markets – including 7.5 per cent of a fragmented credit card industry and 4.5 per cent of the car insurance sector. And with a distribution network that outstrips all of the major banks, the supermarket has another big advantage.

However, the most compelling reason to expect Tesco to make a success of retail banking is that it has a better understanding of its customers than almost any other business you can name – certainly in the banking world – with remarkably sophisticated data on its shoppers.

Hitherto, Tesco has been a business built on organic growth. But given that people won't always feel the way they do about banks right now, expanding quickly makes sense. One way to do that is an acquisition. Don't be surprised if the next time you see the Chancellor and Tesco together they're signing off the supermarket's purchase of the decent bits of Northern Rock.

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