DEATH OF THE ROCK
When I was a financial journalist, Northern Rock had a reputation for being a little, well, sharp. The deals they offered to savers and borrowers looked attractive but it generally paid to look below the surface. On one occasion, I recall, they shifted many thousands of customers out of one account into another that paid less interest, without any warning at all. Here's a contemporary account from the Telegraph.
Over the years, in other words, Northern Rock has run the reserves of customer goodwill dangerously low. So even though most experts agree that savers' funds are not at risk in the current credit crisis, customers see little reason to trust the Rock and are withdrawing their funds in droves.
Banks used to be viewed as solid, rather staid, but entirely reliable institutions. These days they are regarded (quite correctly) as rapacious, profit-driven and untrustworthy. No wonder the Rock's customers are rushing to get at their cash. Whatever the experts say, if I was a customer, I'd be doing the same.
I predict that within a year, the Northern Rock's assets will have been sold and the brand, tainted beyond repair, will have disappeared from Britain's high streets. And you have to say it serves them right.
UPDATE: Robert Peston's blog on the BBC explains the obstacles to a sale of Northern Rock. One way or another, though, I still reckon it will happen.