Smile (bank)

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Trading name
Industry Banking
Founded 1999 (1999)
1 Balloon Street
M60 4EP
Key people
Andrew Bester
(Chief Executive Officer)
Products Retail banking

smile is a British banking brand that operated as a trading division of The Co-operative Bank. It started as the UK’s first fully digital bank in 1999,[1] offering full-service current accounts, savings, ISAs, investments and credit cards.

Other banks, such as 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.


The smile brand was launched in October 1999.

In July 2000, "" 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’. Additionally, the "Internet Made Easy" magazine rated smile 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[2] which gave smile customers even more opportunity to expand their financial portfolios, and compare more shares and stocks. In 2002, smile also launched Sharedealing[3] to help experienced and new investors build an online portfolio, with 24-hour access.

In 2003 there were record interim pre-tax profits[4] for the tenth consecutive year. The first half of 2003 improved on the previous year, up 10% on 2002.

As part of this community outreach, smile sponsored the Cape2cape[5] challenge in 2004, where a team flew 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.[6]

In 2008, smile launched an ethical policy[7] vote, giving customers the opportunity to change the things that matter most to them. This included turning down 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 anniversary,[8] a year in which Moneywise gave smile a ‘Highly Commended’ rating for its online and call centre service.[citation needed]


In 2000, smile launched a national rollout and a UK-wide ad campaign, featuring the song ‘Smile’ by The Supernaturals.[9] They also launched a series of web shorts, all aimed at promoting smile’s automatic cancellation from the customer’s previous bank.[10]

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 suggested that “more than 11m Brits say bananas make them smile more than any other fruit.”[11]

Using direct mail campaigns, 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.[12]

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-mustache mask, a pink wig, feather boas and other humorous items.[13]


  1. ^ "UK's first digital bank". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ "smile collaboration with Fidelity Fundsupermarket". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ "smile launched Sharedealing". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Record pre tax profits for smile". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Cape2cape challenge". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  6. ^ "smile sponsor NW comedy awards". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  7. ^ "smile launch ethical policy". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  8. ^ "smile celebrate 10th birthday". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  9. ^ "smile ad campaign - supernaturals". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  10. ^ "smile ad web cam ad campaign". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  11. ^ "smile banana campaign". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  12. ^ "smile toothbrush campaign". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  13. ^ "smile's tenth anniversary".

External links

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