We at The Couch Reporters aim to take the hassle out of staying informed for our readers. Now it seems that a bank wants to do the same for the finances of ordinary people: TSB has returned. Founded in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan to create “something of real and lasting value for those struggling to overcome poverty”, the Trusted Savings Bank has had a difficult journey in recent years, under the ownership of Lloyds Banking Group. But now TSB has been set free and will be competing head to head with the revitalised Lloyds on the high street. At the same time, it will be resurrecting Duncan’s values and bringing local banking back.
As of 9th September TSB was separately launched from Lloyds, who have this week themselves rebranded. Its 632 branches consist of Lloyds TSB Scotland, as well as 446 branches in England and Wales, including the 164 branches that were once Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society. It’s fitting that these should be included, for the building society was founded at the same time as TSB, and for the disadvantaged. Similarly, TSB was born from the Scottish reverend’s concern over ‘the dignity of ordinary working people’, believing that “industry could be encouraged and a sense of pride and independence fostered only when a bank served the community with the peoples’ interests at its heart”. At a time when many are still recovering from the recession, individuals and companies alike, these are admirable sentiments to be reanimating. Duncan’s endeavours were thoughts ‘revolutionary’; now, they seem inspiringly human.
TSB began in Ruthwell, Dumfrieshire, the first bank of its kind in the world. Today, its headquarters return to those Scottish roots, being overseen by Chief Executive Paul Pester in Edinburgh. Yet, it’s been a difficult circular journey. TSB has been suffering the ‘turbulent times’ of the storm that came, Duncan’s ideals hidden by broken promises and the banking crisis. For TSB merged with Lloyds Bank in 1995 in order to increase charitable donations into trusts set up in 1985 for continuing Duncan’s work and ethics, on 1% of pre-tax profits. Until 2009, it was an arrangement that “improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland”, but the crisis scuppered it. The TSB Foundation for Scotland’s work was lost amid bureaucracy and legality but, as of 2012, the £3.5 million lost in 2010 was ordered paid by Scotland’s senior judge, the Lord President, Lord Hamilton. Now, Lloyds and TSB are going their separate ways, with full divestment in 2014.
The world has changed, of course, since TSB was founded. Nonetheless, individuals and small businesses need this sort of institution behind them. Indeed, TSB will be offering customers the original local focus, for community is key. Even though TSB’s makeover sees it becoming “the largest new bank ever to be launched in the UK”, its multitude of branches still don’t make it equivalent to the ambivalent banking muscle that is Lloyds. One thing has remained, and that is trust.