* Bank CEO says launch can boost spending in supermarkets
* Tesco looking to win market share from "Big 5" banks
* Bank customers offered points in Tesco loyalty scheme
* Bank has built up 12 percent credit card market share
* UK minister says bank will give consumers more choice
(Adds government comment, Tesco Bank customer numbers)
By Matt Scuffham
LONDON, June 10 Tesco Bank, the financial
services arm of Britain's biggest retailer, has launched its
first personal current or checking account, looking to challenge
established lenders and bring shoppers back into its parent's
The bank is aiming for a slice of a market dominated by
Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland,
Barclays, HSBC and Santander UK (part of
Spain's Santander ), which provide over three-quarters
Parent Tesco also hopes the service will help
entice customers back into its supermarkets after suffering its
worst three-monthly sales drop in 40 years.
Account holders will be offered credits via Tesco's loyalty
scheme Clubcard, which they can spend inside Tesco's 3,000 UK
"The bank is a cornerstone of Tesco's relationship with its
customers and (the new account) will make that relationship
stronger," Tesco Bank Chief Executive Benny Higgins told
Lawmakers are keen for challengers to emerge to break the
dominance of Britain's "Big 5" lenders and last year introduced
rules to guarantee customers can switch bank accounts within
seven working days. Britain's financial regulator has also been
asked to promote competition within the industry.
"We want Britain's consumers and businesses to have far
greater choice in banking services," said Economic Secretary
Andrea Leadsom. "New banking providers will give people more
choice and encourage all banks to offer better and competitive
Higgins said the potential for growth was illustrated by the
progress of Tesco Bank's credit card, which has built up a 12
percent share of the market in the UK. If that was replicated in
current accounts, it would give Tesco the same share as HSBC.
He wants to target the 6 million customers already using
Tesco Bank for credit cards, loans and savings products and the
16 million Tesco customers who use Clubcard.
Tesco is offering interest of 3 percent on balances of up to
3,000 pounds. Customers depositing less than 750 pounds a month
into the account will have to pay a 5 pound monthly fee.
The success of Tesco's credit cards and other financial
products such as mortgages have also boosted spending in stores.
Clubcard points worth 120 million pounds were granted to Tesco
Bank customers last year.
Current account customers will get 1 Clubcard point (worth 1
penny) for each 4 pounds spent in Tesco and 1 point for each 8
pounds spent elsewhere.
Britain's personal current account market has become
increasingly competitive, with Nationwide and TSB
IPO-TSB.L setting ambitious targets for growth, and Santander
UK also picking up market share through its heavily advertised
123 current account.
Current accounts are seen as key because they enable banks
to cross-sell other products. However Higgins declined to set
long-term targets for growth and played down the impact his bank
can make on the overall market, saying bank customers were still
reluctant to switch between lenders.
"We don't have a specific target on market share. Of course
we have a business plan, but we don't have a market share
target. One of the things that is clear is that there is very
little switching taking place in the UK," he said.
However, the Payments Council said in April there had been a
14 percent increase in the number of customers moving banks
since the new switching rules were introduced last September.
Other British retailers have also ventured into financial
services. Marks & Spencer for instance has a banking
joint venture with HSBC, while Sainsbury bought Lloyds
out of a banking joint venture in February, but has no plans to
offer current accounts.
Tesco has gone further than its rivals, because it is
offering a full range of services and owns the bank outright.
(Editing by David Holmes and Mark Potter)