|Headquarters||1 Balloon Street
M60 4EP, United Kingdom
|Niall Booker, Chief Executive, The Co-operative Bank|
Smile, or smile.co.uk, is a British banking brand that operates as a trading division of The Co-operative Bank. It started as the UK’s first fully digital bank in 1999, offering full-service current accounts, savings, ISAs, investments and credit cards.
Other banks, like Egg and First-e, had offered digital services previously, but smile was the first to offer a full service where customers would not have to visit any high-street branches to do their banking. In fact, they were the first UK online bank to be accredited with the ISO 27001 information security certification.
smile launched in October 1999. From the very beginning, they offered competitive rates and a fully digital service when competitors were just introducing online banking to their high-street customers. Dave Smith, spokesman for smile, said in 2000 that smile was for ‘people who were comfortable enough with the net to put their bank account on it’.
In July 2000, moneybags.co.uk rated smile highly in terms of accessibility, citing its ‘excellent interest rates, top functionality, nice appearance and lots of clear, helpful information in plain English’. Also voted by Internet Made Easy magazine as ‘simply the best of the web’, these two comments were just the first in a long line of positive notes from some of the finance industry’s biggest names.
2001 saw smile launch ‘smile invest’, a collaboration with Fidelity Fundsupermarket which gave smile customers even more opportunity to expand their financial portfolios, and compare more shares and stocks than ever before. From 2002, smile also launched Sharedealing to help experienced and new investors build an online portfolio, with 24-hour access.
2003 proved to be an excellent year for both The Co-operative Bank and smile, as there were record interim pre-tax profits for the tenth consecutive year. The first half of 2003 even improved on the previous year, up 10% on 2002. To Co-operative and smile customers, as well as the rest of the banking world, this showed that banks who valued ethics and great service could still turn a tidy profit - money which would go back into the communities they served.
As part of this community outreach, smile sponsored the Cape2cape challenge in 2004, with a team flying from the tip of Chile to the coast of Canada in a single plane. This was followed by smile sponsoring the North West Comedy Awards in 2005.
In 2008, smile launched its ethical policy vote, giving customers the opportunity to change the things that matter most to them. These included turning down millions of pounds of business, including accounts for known arms dealers, cosmetic businesses which test on animals, and companies which affect the environment with dangerous chemicals.
2009 was smile’s 10th birthday, a year in which Moneywise gave smile a ‘Highly Commended’ rating for its online and call centre service.
In 2000, smile launched with a national rollout and a UK-wide ad campaign, featuring the song ‘Smile’ by Supernatura l. They also launched a series of web shorts, all aimed at promoting smile’s automatic cancellation from the customer’s previous bank.
They also followed this up with stickers placed on bananas in Co-operative Food stores, with the phrase ‘Top Banana’ (‘bananas’ originally being a slang term for money), followed by the smile URL. Bob Head, chief executive of smile, said that new research commissioned by smile suggested that “more than 11m Brits say bananas make them smile more than any other fruit.”
With a set of direct mail campaigns too, like pairs of underwear with the words ‘other banks are pants’ emblazoned on them, as well as toothbrushes to ‘keep people smiling’, smile generally uses a humorous tone when speaking to its audience.
For smile’s tenth anniversary, in October 2009, the bank launched its ‘Cheer Up Britain’ campaign, showing various ‘unhappy’ celebrities and politicians (like Anne Widdecombe, Gordon Brown and Richard ‘Victor Meldrew’ Wilson) with a ‘smile’ in front of their faces. People were also encouraged to cheer up the people around them with starter packs like a joke glasses-and-moustache mask, a pink wig, feather boas and other humorous items.
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- "Cape2cape challenge". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
- "Smile sponsor NW comedy awards". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
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- "smile celebrate 10th birthday". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
- "Smile ad campaign - supernaturals". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
- "Smile ad web cam ad campaign". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
- "Smile banana campaign". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
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- "Smile's tenth anniversary".