On Monday 11th January 2010 Abbey and Bradford & Bingley changed their name to Santander, but what does this really mean?
The much anticipated merger that's been poised to irrevocably alter the face of British banking for some time has finally taken place. Abbey and Bradford & Bingley have now taken on the name of their parent company, Santander, and both brands will disappear from the financial market place - and UK high streets - altogether.
However, while the rebranding of these two financial giants is something that's likely to cause a huge amount of confusion for both current and prospective customers, it's not going to cause much disruption to their day to day banking; in the short term at least.
Despite keeping a comparatively low profile in the UK until recently, Santander are actually the 7th largest banking group in the world. They were originally a Spanish banking brand, but now have a phenomenal presence on the international banking scheme and have been trading in the UK for over 60 years.
Officially, Abbey changed its name to Santander on Monday 11th January, 2010. However, the bank was actually owned, and run by Santander long before this.
The 'behind the scenes' merger of the two banks took place in July, 2004 when Santander bought out Abbey National plc (as it was then known). While this takeover did by no means go unnoticed, customers were little affected as they continued to bank with 'Abbey' as before. However, the official rename to Santander now means that the Abbey brand will disappear from our high streets and our wallets altogether.
Santander have said that they plan to keep all of the branches formerly run by Abbey in operation under their new name for the foreseeable future. Consequently, if you currently bank with Abbey, you should still be able to see the same staff, at the same branch as before; it will simply have a different name.
The transformation has already started and if everything goes according to plan all traces of Abbey should be erased from the now-Santander branches by the end of the month.
The range of financial products on offer hasn't changed dramatically since the rebranding; aside from now being provided by Santander instead of Abbey, of course.
The same applies to existing Abbey products - they'll still uphold the same deals and be governed by the same terms and conditions as before (unless you have received written communication from the bank telling you differently) but will be officially provided by Santander instead of Abbey.
Abbey bought out Bradford & Bingley savings in September, 2008 (with the remainder of the business being taken on by the Government) when the brand got into difficulty at the peak of the global financial crisis. They also adopted their network of retail branches but continued to run them under the Bradford & Bingley branding. However, these branches have now been adopted by Santander and renamed accordingly; as has the Bradford & Bingley savings range.
It's worth noting that the government-owned insurance side of things will still be run under the Bradford & Bingley brand, it's just the savings range that have been renamed.
Alliance & Leicester are the third British bank to have been taken over by Santander in recent times; they too will be rebranded to Santander in the latter half of this year. Again, Santander intend to keep all of these branches open too so customers will still be able to continue banking as they do now.