Mark Casci: What the axing of the Yorkshire Bank brands means for the future of banking

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It is a brand which has stood for more than 170 years, helping thousands upon thousands of people to manage their money, save and run their businesses.

However, as of 2021, the name Yorkshire Bank will be consigned to history as its owner, the Clydesdale Yorkshire Bank Group, brings all of its brands under the banner of Virgin Money, the banking giant it acquired last year.

Picture James Hardisty.'Yorkshire Bank, Leeds City Branch, Briggate, Leeds.

Picture James Hardisty.'Yorkshire Bank, Leeds City Branch, Briggate, Leeds.

The news was not new but the timetable is. They will start to disappear this year and be gone for good by 2021.

READ MORE: Yorkshire Bank confirm more jobs may be on the way

Yorkshire Bank’s owners were frank with customers as soon as news of the Virgin deal was first made public.

In fact it pulled no punches, a rarity in the era of modern corporate communications. As well as revealing the scrapping of the core brands it confirmed that branches would close as a result of the deal and that there would be significant job cuts.

The news that Yorkshire Bank will no longer feature on cheque books, shop fascias and debit cards will inevitably stick in the craw of many, especially in a region as fiercely proud as Yorkshire.

Yorkshire heritage

As business editor of The Yorkshire Post, it is natural for me to lament anything that removes the names associated with this great region from the corporate landscape, especially in such a key area as financial services.

It is really not that long ago that Bradford & Bingley – once a mighty part of the region’s blue chip pantheon – vanished in the wake of the tsunami of the financial crisis.

On this score however it is, of course, not all bad news.

CYBG CEO David Duffy'Pic Peter Devlin

CYBG CEO David Duffy'Pic Peter Devlin

Halifax still exists, albeit as part of the Lloyd’s Banking Group. Indeed its performance remains a crucial and invaluable part of the wider group’s success.

And of course, the building societies which feature the names Yorkshire, Leeds and Skipton, all remain powerful financial forces on a national level.

However, the news that Yorkshire Bank will no longer feature on cheque books, shop fascias and debit cards will inevitably stick in the craw of many, especially in a region as fiercely proud as Yorkshire.

Readers of this newspaper were quick to express their displeasure at the news. Among those commenting had the following to say: “Shame. Yorkshire folk are loyal. At least I won’t feel bad about switching banks now.”

Photo credit should read: Scott Heppell/PA wire

Photo credit should read: Scott Heppell/PA wire

“Just don’t see the logic of this. One of the themes of the last 10 years is frustration with loss of local/regional connections and identity. Keep strong brands.”

Changing times

The frustration is palpable and I appreciate the intent behind it. It is akin to that seen whenever banks shutter branches, it speaks to a part of one’s heritage and community being wrenched away.

Sadly, such measures are clear cut signs of the times. Ten years ago, the biggest challenge branches posed to banks concerned the length of the queues. Now, it is the absence of them.

But on the branding, it remains to be seen whether the decision to axe Yorkshire and Clydesdale will have a positive impact on the business. CEO David Duffy acknowledged that the decision was “not an easy one”.

Yorkshire may not have the same trendy connotations as Virgin Money does in many sectors, but it does stand for other important factors, such as reliability and integrity – factors synonymous with the region’s heritage and also with those one would want from the organisation tasked with managing one’s financial affairs.

CYBG

CYBG

As Yorkshire Bank transitions into Virgin Money it does so with a top notch management team, one with ambition and zeal to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Let’s hope the values of Yorkshire that gave birth to the business remain at its core in the fast-moving and never stagnant world of modern banking.

To lose them would not only be a blow to its history, it would be fatal to its future.