Question 2 – Who Owns The Bank?

Many banks are now transnational businesses. Most are owned by shareholders and listed on the stock exchanges in London, New York or elsewhere. Until recently, the major exception in the UK was the Co-operative Bank, which was not listed on any stock exchange as it was owned by its customers rather than shareholders. In 2013, the Co-operative Bank responded to financial problems by deciding to list the majority of its shares on the London Stock Exchange.

Some banking services that appear to be separate from the major banks may in fact be subsidiaries of them. For example, Sainsburys Finance is half-owned by Lloyds.

Some ownership details for the major UK banks:

Barclays is listed on the London and New York Stock Exchanges.

Co-operative Bank was until 2013 owned by its customers (through the Co-operative Group) rather than by shareholders. A percentage of the bank has now been put on the London Stock Exchange, with the Co-operative Group expected to retain only a minority stake. The Co-operative Bank owns the online banking service Smile. In 2009, it bought the Britannia Building Society.

HSBC is listed on the Bermuda, Hong Kong, London, New York and Paris Stock Exchanges. It owns First Direct and half-owns Marks and Spencers Money (the other half is owned by Marks and Spencers).

Lloyds Banking Group is listed on the London and New York Stock Exchanges. However, 41% of its shares are owned by the UK government following a bailout during the banking crisis of 2008. Lloyds Banking Group owns the Bank of Scotland, Halifax, HBOS and Lloyds TSB. It also part-owns Sainsburys Finance (Sainsburys owns the rest).

Royal Bank of Scotland Group is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The UK government owns 82% of the shares following a bailout during the banking crisis. The company owns RBS as well as NatWest and Ulster Bank.

Santander (Banco Santander) is listed on the four Spanish Stock Exchanges as well as the Buenos Aires, Lisbon, London, Mexico City, Milan and New York Stock Exchanges. In recent years, the company has bought Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley.

Standard Chartered is listed on the Hong Kong, London and Mumbai Stock Exchanges. It owns Standard Chartered Breeze (a mobile banking application) and American Express.

Smaller banks include Harrods Bank and Tesco Bank, which are fully owned by Harrods and Tesco respectively. There are also a number of local banks and British branches of banks based primarily elsewhere.

There are also several smaller banks that aim specifically for ethical policies, such as Reliance Bank (owned by the Salvation Army), Charity Bank (which is itself a registered charity) and Triodos Bank (owned by shareholders who are each limited to a certain number of shares, to ensure diverse ownership). None of these are listed on the stock exchange.

Of course, there are also many alternatives to banks, such as building societies and credit unions.

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