This summer Marks and Spencer is not just releasing a slick ad campaign and filling shops with shorts and strawberries, the high street giant is also opening banks.
From next month you can apply for a current account while picking up your Percy Pigs, with a mortgage planned for later in the year.
The first place customers will be able to see this fusion of fashion and finance in-store will be at Marks & Spencer’s flagship Marble Arch store, with 50 more branches being added over the next two years.
“This bank will be built on M&S values; putting the customer at the heart of the proposition and delivering the exceptional service that sets us apart from the competition,” said Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland.
M&S promised its bank branches would be open twice as long as traditional banks, seven days a week – as well as offering 24 hour access to online banking and UK based call centres.
Branches will be managed by M&S Bank teams and feature private meeting areas, self-service banking points, as well as a bureau de change. “The aim is to create, a relaxed, modern banking environment for customers, with personal touches such as M&S furniture and fresh flowers,” M&S said in a statement.
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Will they be any good?
It’s not M&S’ first move into finance – in fact M&S Money has provided things like insurance and credit cards for more than 25 years.
Currently M&S Money offers one of the best 0% on new purchases credit cards – with 15 months interest free. It also offers market-leading personal loans of 6% interest and a pretty good savings account with a 1-year fixed-rate ISA paying 3.25%.
None of these are alone at the top of the best-buy tables, but it’s impressive to be that high up on so many products.
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Insurance is harder to compare as premiums depend on individual circumstances, but M&S Money offers home, car, travel and pet insurance.
When it comes to predictions on how good their bank accounts and mortgage will be, there are encouraging signs.
M&S is partnering with HSBC for these – and HSBC currently offers the cheapest fixed-rate mortgages as well as featuring high up the best-buy tables for trackers and offset mortgages as well as having the consistently best-rated current account thanks to its First Direct brand.
Joe Garner, head of HSBC in the UK, described the tie-up with M&S as the bank’s “most significant innovation” since First Direct was launched 22 years ago.
M&S and HSBC have worked together since 2004, and split profits equally between them, however M&S Money retains its own board.
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Would you bank with M&S?
HSBC and M&S think this is a great opportunity, and will “provide customers with a credible, alternative choice in the banking sector” according to M&S Bank’s chief executive Colin Kersley.
But M&S is already the UK’s biggest clothing retailer, has a massive food business as well as home and beauty products.
So while they’re convinced customers will be “genuinely excited by the prospect of banking with their favourite retailer” – according to Kersley – is a current account and mortgage product, as well as in-store banking, something you’d use?
Let us know below: