CYBG’s takeover of Virgin Money is an all-shares deal, but if there had been talk of cash changing hands maybe the Clydesdale Bank’s owner would have insisted on printing more of its own. After all, Clydesdale banknotes may soon become collectors’ items when CYBG dumps the brand in favour of its new merger partner.
Clydesdale has been printing its own notes since the mid-19th century. It is the largest issuer by volume in Scotland and in 2015 reached the milestone of having more than £2 billion worth of notes in circulation on a single day.
That year it issued a limited edition polymer note featuring the Forth Bridge and its engineer Sir William Arrol and, as a symbol of its commitment to modernity, in 2016 it replaced all its £5 notes with polymer versions.
But could Clydesdale Bank’s own branding on banknotes be destined for the history books?
The official line we got from CYBG’s head office in Glasgow earlier this week was: “There is no plan to change our approach to banknotes.”
When asked if that meant Clydesdale Bank would remain on the notes even though the bank would no longer exist as a brand, we were told there is no planned change “in the short to medium term”.
Now, that suggests the banknote issue is on the agenda.
Virgin Money is still a relatively new kid on the block in banking terms, having been set up in 1995. Since then it has been trying to change banking, not least through its own highly-recognisable brand marketing.
That has meant associating itself with some of the milestones that its customers have grown up with. In the same year that Clydesdale was commemorating a famous world heritage site, Virgin marked 40 years since its record label signed the Sex Pistols by having one of its credit cards feature the album cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Another reproduced the design for Anarchy in the UK.
It’s unlikely that the merger negotiating teams were too concerned by this sort of detail at this stage of their proposed marriage. However, the CYBG people have accepted that the Virgin brand carries more weight with the public.
As the banks these days are learning to listen to what the customer wants, they will no doubt be open to suggestions for how the new bank should be marketed.
We may not get punk rockers on Clydesdale’s banknotes, but maybe the days of featuring famous landmarks are for the history books.