HSBC and Barclays popular for standing alone

Stephan Shakespeare
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AYEAR ago this week we experienced &ldquo;The End of the World as We Know It&rdquo; as investment bank Lehman collapsed, amid fears of the whole financial system going into meltdown. In the subsequent months I took part in many gloomy debates about whether everything had changed forever, or whether it was just a larger-scale event in the usual up and down rhythm of life. Some of my friends thought we&rsquo;d be at war by now, possibly in a Mad Max battle over water.<br /><br />And I&rsquo;ve just returned from an exercise in future planning in which we looked at the problems a Cameron government might face, and how it should deal with them. Global cyber attacks, electricity brownouts, terrorist attacks on shopping centres and the testing of an Iranian bomb made it a depressing day. How pleasant, then, to come back to this graph showing the surprisingly cheery performance of banking brands in the last few months.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s a differentiated picture, though. BrandIndex, a YouGov product which measures a brand&rsquo;s health across a seven-point profile, indicates that the public has been sensitive to the activities of particular banks. HSBC and Barclays, which were less exposed to the global financial crisis and did not accept government money, suffered only a little for being banking brands, and a year on have fully recovered their scores. Halifax and Lloyds did less well. The worst-hit bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, dropped dramatically from +5 to a low of -25 during March 2009. More worryingly for the bank is the fact that its BrandIndex figures have shown only moderate signs of recovery since then. RBS has been stuck around the -11 point mark for two months, Nationwide has recovered to +12 points, and HSBC to +4 points. <br /><br />A string of public relations disasters have left the integrity of RBS in tatters. As belt-tightening and frugality has become the name of the game for the other banks, RBS has seriously mishandled its image as the public has proved intolerant of it continuing to operate as if it is &ldquo;business as usual&rdquo;.<br /><br />Stephan Shakespeare is co-founder and chief innovation officer of polling firm YouGov