Could the banks be broken up by watchdog?

bank_sign Britain's big four high street banks - Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland - could be broken up in to little pieces after the Competition and Markets Authority announced they'll be launching an 18 month investigation into them all.

The big four currently control 77% of current accounts and 85% of small business (SME) current accounts, but customer satisfaction is low and the banks themselves are seemingly reluctant to change the way they do business.

The CMA was launched in April to replace other competition watchdogs.

"Competitive personal and SME banking markets are essential to households and businesses throughout the country, and to the success of the UK economy. However, our studies have found that despite some positive developments, significant competition concerns remain which mean that customers may not be getting consistently good service and value from their banks," said Alex Chisholm, chief executive of the CMA.

This is a political hot potato (catch!) with all parties promising to do something about it all.

Ed Miliband, bless 'im, has said that he'll launch a competition investigation if elected next May. Meanwhile, his pal and shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, added: "As we said earlier this year, in the next parliament we need to see at least two new challenger banks and a market-share test to ensure the market stays competitive for the long term."

The coalition themselves have also looked at ways of bolstering competition, including ideas to make it is easier for people to set new banks up.

No-one's happy though.

"We note, in particular, that the larger banks, with relatively lower satisfaction levels, have not significantly lost market share, while banks with higher satisfaction levels have not been able to gain significant market share, which is not what one would normally expect to find in well functioning, competitive markets," the CMA said.

However, there's been loads of analysis into the market. When Gordon Brown was chancellor in '99, he ordered an investigation into the banking sector. This will be the 10th occasion, and you have to wonder if anything will happen with this, given that nothing ever seems to get corrected.

Are the CMA going to be robust enough with our financial institutions? Don't hold your breath.


  • George C.
    Before failed MPs die, the clever ones are handed cushy jobs in banks and their thicker mates go to the EU commission. It's the EU that will make any final decision on breaking up the banks. So, still think any of this is going to happen?
  • Bogbrush
    well, Lloyds was broken up not long ago, so yes, it appears there is a government commitment to make it so.

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