10 OCTOBER 1987, Page 22

Burnt pocket

THE Trustee Savings Banks were never exactly privatised, since (subject to various opinions in the House of Lords) they had never been exactly publicised. The objects of the TSB's £640 million share issue was to equip the company with some sharehol- ders, and to give the investing public an encouraging dummy run for British Gas. The TSB already had a perfectly adequate amount of capital — unenterprising bank that it was, it had never discovered Brazil — and the £640 million has been burning a hole in its pocket ever since. Now the money has burnt through, and escaped in the direction of Hill Samuel. Hapless Hill Samuel, casting about in the marriage market — a saving bank is not exactly a smart match for an accepting house, but comfortable, and better than marrying a crook or the curate. The takeover is another sterf in the long and pointless process of making the Trustee Savings Bank more like other High Street banks, As if the other High Street banks were not far too much like one another already! As if there were something wrong with a bank which concentrated on its own, largely personal, not very grand customers! As if many of these customers needed a mer- chant bank! As if these were not stable and profitable customers whose merits the Big Four have belatedly recognised, the cus- tomers to whom the building societies want to sell banking services! As if the TSB had management to spare!