What's the diference between Bank of America and Wells Fargo? Citibank and JPMorgan Chase? Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC? Hbos and Barclays?
From a consumer perspective, very little. They all offer much the same products, charge much the same fees, and use much the same distribution networks.
For sure, some may be better capitalised than others. But if those that aren't are deemed too big to fail, what do I care?
Economic realities may mean that national governments have no choice other than to prop up their ailing institutions, but it's a missed opportunity.
Rather than pour all the money into a creaky life support machine for an undifferentiated banking dinosaur, why not set a little aside for a hedge on a brighter future. An incubator fund to nurture a new breed of banking institution, that takes its cue from
modern technology to drive down cost income ratios, get closer to customers and set new standards for innovation and consumer satisfaction.
It's already happening in the capital markets space, where a new generation of nimble multi-lateral trading facilities are successfully taking on the incumbent national stock exchanges.
After all, if you were to build a retail bank that was fit for purpose in the 21st century, would you mimic the behemoths spawned in the pre-Internet, pre-PC, pre-mobile 20th century? Or would you create something entirely new?