View from City Road: Embarrassment at the Halifax

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The Independent Online
Abject humiliation is - or should be - the order of the day at Halifax Building Society. Societies pride themselves on their unimpeachable standards, and with good reason. A reputation for reliability built up during the years of quasi-municipal activity has lent today's commercially minded societies a valuable aura of respectability.

That is the logic behind extending 'brands' like Halifax into peripheral areas such as estate agency and insurance. The idea is that the average punter will much more willing to place his or her faith in the safe hands of a building society representative rather than the grasp of a typical salesman.

Halifax's embarrassing admission that some of its agents have failed to follow correct procedures debases its brand, no matter how many times it promises to ensure that none of its customers will suffer as a result.

Worse, the agents in question were distributing pensions, unit trusts and the like on behalf of Standard Life, the insurance giant. Come January Halifax plans to run its own show, selling its own products. That it could not get things right, even when backed by an experienced parter, hardly augurs well.

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