/ Money

This is not just a bank… this is an M&S bank

Marks and Spencer has been around for over 125 years and is popular among its customers in a way that banks can only dream of. But do we really want to do our banking at the same time as shopping for socks?

M&S has announced that it will launch a full banking service, including current accounts and in-store banking, but the retailer is far from new to providing financial services.

It launched its first product, the M&S Chargecard (its in-store credit card), in 1985 and since then has expanded under the M&S Money brand to provide insurance, credit cards and savings. Its forays into these areas could be deemed a success – indeed, the retailer is a Which? Recommended Provider for car and home insurance as well as for credit cards.

Metro, now M&S – new banks on the high street

And there’s plenty of evidence that M&S could flourish in the banking industry. Metro Bank, which in 2010 was the first new bank to enter the high street in a century, has been a major hit with customers, opening more than 80,000 current accounts despite its branch locations being limited to just Greater London. The bank also recently announced it will be opening seven new stores by the end of 2012 – taking them up to 19 branches.

And M&S looks like it will follow the Metro Bank model of focusing on customer service and making banking convenient. M&S banks will be based in stores and they are planning to open 50 over the next two years – the first in their flagship store in Marble Arch.

The banks will be open throughout store hours, allowing customers to bank and shop seven days a week. Customers will be able to use a self-service area or be seen in a seated area rather than at counters. And we’re even promised flowers!

But will it be different enough?

But providing a fully-fledged high street banking service is a significant step and not a guaranteed success. Last year Tesco Bank scrapped plans to open a network of in-store banks after experiencing problems with its pilot branches.

Another potential sticking point is that M&S Money and its new banking services are half owned by HSBC, which will be providing all the back-office support. So although M&S will make the business decisions, essentially any customer of M&S Bank will be a HSBC customer. This may dull the appeal slightly for people seeing this as a chance to bank with someone new.

It’s also a big risk for a company whose worst headline in recent years was Jeremy Paxman complaining about its pants, to enter the murky world of banking. Consumers often think banks are as bad as each other, and M&S needs to be cautious not to be dragged down with the industry’s damaged reputation.

Personally, though, I think anything which can add diversity and competition to the banking sector is a good thing. And if M&S Bank puts the customer experience at the heart of services, then perhaps there’s a chance it could help drive up standards across the industry.

So, does the promise of sitting on an M&S sofa to do your banking appeal to you? Or do you think there are other, better things that could shake up high street banking?


Well I for one won’t be tempted to switch to an M&S bank. As I don’t see it as being any different from all the rest. I’m happy with my wholly owned by HSBC bank. Having a bank effectively split I can foresee emails exchanges along the lines of “it’s not our problem fault”, “oh yes it is”, “oh no its not” and the only loser in that scenario is the customer.

John Symons says:
12 June 2012

I agree. I would not like to have to appeal to an M&S credit card organisation over a dispute with M&S.

That’s a really good point, William – I expect if they do want to succeed they’ll need to make sure there aren’t any odd splits like this in the customer service. I’ve had problems with this sort of thing before from *within the same company*, so with two companies involved, they’ll have to be careful not to make people feel like they’re being passed around.

I wholeheartedly agree. Having been involved in a ding-dong between Barclays and M&S Credit Card over a payment that somehow didn’t reach the right account and led to the accrual of ludicrously disproportionate charges we personally would give M&S a wide berth for financial transactions. Barclays didn’t put a foot wrong, incidentally, and went well beyond the extra mile to try to resolve the problem whereas M&S were in denial, churlish, ungracious in defeat, and mean in redress.

John Symons says:
12 June 2012

It’s not just a bank. It’s an HSBC bank that will presumably pay commission to M&S and therefore increase the average cost of running an HSBC account. Guess who will ultimately pay that commission. This is nothing new. When I withdraw cash from my local Sainsbury’s “Sainsbury’s Bank” ATM I receive a Clydesdale Bank receipt. I buy my Christmas food from M&S, not a bank, so I will keep on banking at Santander.

John Symons says:
12 June 2012

I replied to you, William, and for some reason my reply was not posted, despite my being told when I tried again that I had already posted that comment.

I agree. I would not like to have to appeal to an M&S credit card organisation over a dispute with M&S.

Sorry about that, John – our spam filter was a bit overzealous on this occasion. I’ve approved your original post.

25 June 2012

I replied to you, William, and for some reason my reply was not posted, despite my being told when I tried again that I had already posted that comment.
Sorry about that, John – our spam filter was a bit overzealous on this occasion.
I’ve approved your original post.

‘Spam Filter or, ‘Moderator’?

Dave says:
12 June 2012

I note that in past years HSBC provided customers of M&S better value ISAs than it gave HSBC/First Direct Customers so maybe they are prepared to see it compete as a separate brand. I wouldn’t change from First Direct (HSBC) however for banking services but if they were to bring in charges maybe think again.

For me, the idea of a bank that is open during shopping hours instead of working hours would be a big lure. However, thankfully, I very rarely need to go to the bank in person – so I’m not sure it would be enough to sway me. Add reasonable rates and good customer service, and M&S banks could definitely be a winner.

Obviously one likes to speculate on a new M&S service but it is only speculation.I have shopped at M&S for more years than I care to remember ( I think I was a customer at their only a penny store in Leeds Market-I jest) however over the years it has been by and large quite a satisfactory experience a few issues but basically good. As to banking? well I have had a M&S credit card for a number of years and find the administration pretty good. I manage my account on their website and find it well laid out-but not in my opinion the best. To see beautifully designed websites ( banking that is) I would refer anyone to either ING DIRECT or FIRST DIRECT the latter is a HSBC subsidiary and is renowned for its customer service(see Which) I can confirm that in my personal experience that is correct. So HSBC can and does deliver as does M&S I think the combination of the two could deliver the high street service some of us hoped once again would happen.I thought (pessimisitcally) such service was a thing of the past-fingers crossed..

Cherry says:
13 June 2012

If they use the same Indian call centre as they use for their credit card, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Jhonno says:
16 June 2012

m&s money don’t use an Indian call centre… Please et your facts right

No i wont be opening an account with Marks&Spencer& i never shop there either.

Tony Bryant says:
15 June 2012

I very much support the idea and am sure it is a good move. However, I fear that although a step in the right direction it is a very small and insignificant one when viewed from the perspective of the truley cataclismic consequences that we all pay for a poorly regulated, greedy, and ultimately destructive banking system. The wider picture is that we require a root and branch, (sorry about the pun), restructuring of the whole lot incuding the “square mile”.

Karsam says:
15 June 2012

To me this is just another bank which will be a branch of HSBC. I do not like or trust the banks and will not have an account with them. I know Building Societies have banking capibilites e.g. Nationwide BS, they are a little better than the banks. Unless the banks put the customer first and stop these obscene bonuses they will not gain the respect of the general public.

Bob says:
15 June 2012

The big players have now realised you can screw everyone, and pay yourself as much as you want, with almost no rules, and guarantee the government will always bale them out.
All they have to do is open a new bank.
The term ‘bank robber’ has taken on a new meaning.
Until banks are fully and effectively regulated, they provide no useful function

Tony Bryant says:
25 June 2012

The trouble is that the banks, even in their current awful manifestation, DO provide many vital functions. Without them society as we know it would cease to function. That is why they have had and continue to get support from us DESPITE the fact that they have so spectacularly failed. More of the same with or without sofas, with or without mahogany just guarantees the same or more probably an even greater collapse in the future. It is easy to ignore this and concentrate on the periferal benefits but we do so at our peril.

Peter Hulse says:
17 June 2012

I wonder how much we need bank branches thse days. I bank with First Direct (the telephone/internet version of HSBC). That satisfies most of my requirements. Provided i have access to ATMs and can pay in a cheque, branches are literally a waste of space as far as I’m concerned.

I like my banking done the traditional way – give me the full mahogany any day. . . . although the flowers might tempt me in.

Peter Hulse says:
18 June 2012

I stick to my 17 June comment on the whole. However, i remember opening my first account with National Provincial in 1969, and my father introducing me to the bank manager (who did not offer me a glass of sherry – standards were slipping even in those days); doing it over the phone or on the internet really wouldn’t have been the same.

But maintaining an entire branch network for this purpose seems a touch excessive.

23 June 2012

I do all my banking on-line,….I use Waitrose when I do the weekly,…or is it ‘Weakly’ shopping for a couple of cash-backs, safer than those ATM ‘Hole in the wall gangs!

Tony Bryant says:
25 June 2012

I think the banks have been pretty responsive to the, (fairly), easiliy provided “shopfront” stuff over the years. By that I mean the things that get you through the door in the first place – from mahogany all the way through to well designed and on the whole secure websites. Behind that front needs to be a well organised large team of people that provide a consistent high level of service to its customers, (from pensioners through to small/large businesses, eachother, and even government. It is the banks that oil the cogs of our society. If they become self serving and risk taking to the benefit of their OWN interests, THEN IN THE END WE ALL PAY THE PRICE. Ultimately, we now have a banking system that serves itself whilst at the same time doing it’s best to appear to serve us. I thing that because M&S is a very custemer orientated company, their arrival in the marketplace is a good thing but they are tiny in comparison to the big banks. Any improvements as a consequence of their presence would take many many years. Any REAL change will need government intervention and I see ne signs of that.

John Knox says:
23 July 2012

Unfortunately their banking is not as good as the quality of their merchandise and even the latter is not as good as it used to be. Both myself and my mother have had tremendous trouble with M&S (credit card). They are diabolical. I think only BA AMEX and ASDA Santander are worse.

I am not convinced that these retailers actually want to bring change to banking and help their customers, but they are also just in it for the money and will do anything to get it from you. They use all the tricks the big banks use and have probably been schooled by them. Until the big retailers get their own banking license and continue to offer their services through other established and dreadful banks then I am not convinced that they are serious about bringing change or wanting our custom.

Mr Johnson says:
25 August 2012


hi, i think M&S are really brave to launch a new type of banking service. i love M&S. i hope they get to make loads of money. my one gripe is that M&S should think big like the americans. and should seek to be dominant along the high street.

i wish you all the best

Mr Johnson
Magnus Harp Limited

Mehrnoush says:
7 July 2014

I tried to open a current account with m&s , but they refused me because I don’t have a uk passport.
However I am a uk resident. I have credit cards and current account with 3 different banks , and even mortgage.i have excellent credit according to experian report , and never ever had any issue with other banks.
When I complained to their customer service the manager she couldn’t care less and even raised her voice at me. Tried to speak to a different person , she promised to get back to me about my complaint which she never did, I phoned them back after few days , but again they mention that I have to have a uk passport , so they don’t accept foreigners , doesn’t matter if you are resident and a tax payer , they even don’t accept Home office residence permit.
I feel discriminated by them .