Surely some FinTech brightspark could save Airdrie Savings Bank?

January 19, 2017 by Will Peakin
Surely some FinTech brightspark could save Airdrie Savings Bank?

In the last financial crash it was a rarity; a bank that emerged with credibility

Airdrie Savings Bank, the last of its kind in Britain – an independent savings bank – was a place where you could make an appointment with the manager.

Like, the actual manager.

And he – inevitably a ‘he’, but in this bank’s culture gender was not a factor in its deliberations – would listen.

And he could provide that moment of respite; a bridging loan when a house sale and purchase did not conviniently coincide, a short-term overdraft when financial stars were waiting to converge.

No online forms to fill, no financial algorithms whirring in the background.

Did those old-fashioned indulgences sink this bank? Not according to its current chairman, Jeremy Brettell.

He said yesterday: “Whilst we are financially strong, a comprehensive strategic review of all future options concluded that we will not have – as a very small bank – the resources in the years ahead to provide the products and services our customers need in this increasingly digital world.”

Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland’s business editor, summarised the bank’s recent history: “Its profile was high when the Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland had to be rescued. With a strong traditional ethos, it saw the number of customers increase.

“In 2010, several of Scotland’s most prominent leaders each put £1m investments into Airdrie Savings Bank, to help it expand.

“However, in recent years, it has struggled as the industry has seen customers move their banking away from branches – and secure internet and mobile banking has required very high levels of investment.”

It is said that the internet has diminished face-to-face interaction. Yet meet-ups, conferences and ‘un-conferences’, thrive. People still value conversations based on soundwaves as well as zeroes and ones, even if their business is built on the latter.

With 70 jobs at risk and a 182 year-old institution on the brink, the thought is not proffered lightly; but it would be intriguing to see what today’s brightest minds could offer.