After much talk, Virgin has finally entered the high street banking world by offering current accounts. This poses the interesting conundrum – ‘Does our disillusion with the banking sector present opportunities for trusted brands to step in, or are such brands in danger of being tarnished by the sector reputation?’. Many of our trusted brands already must feel that the rewards are worth the risk, with such major players as Tesco and Marks & Spencer involved in financial services and promising to increase their activities.
Perhaps their credibility lies in the fact that they are effectively retailers and that is where their brand reputation and trust resides: so, as long as they restrict their actions to retail banking their trusted brand status will be strong enough to carry them through. The danger though will be the potential for infection by the same hubris that led the investment banking sector onto the rocks. My instinct is that these companies are acutely aware of their brand values – far more so than the financial sector was – and they will take great care to protect them. But it is a potentially murky sector and they will do well to remember the words of the Apocrypha – “He that touches pitch shall be defiled”