No Lloyds Banking Group hasn't gone to the dark side, despite what many people think about the banks. It isn't the destruction of two towers that the bank celebrated on September 11th, but the bringing together of two giants - Lloyds TSB and HBoS. For September 11th marked the formal end of the integration of the two banks three months early, below the original cost and with higher synergies achieved. However Mark Fisher, Director of Group Operations, didn't make the George W. Bush mistake of saying 'Job Done' on September 11th, even though he and his team are entitled to receive significant bonuses for delivering Integration early, as he knows that there is still Simplification (the delayering, streamlining and further platform consolidation of Lloyds Banking Group) and Verde (the separation of the 632 branches, Intelligent Finance and Cheltenham & Gloucester from the mother ship and transfer to the acquirer or floatation) still to do. However Integration is something to celebrate.
The integration of Lloyds TSB and HBOS was the largest banking integration in Europe. To have achieved it ahead of time, under budget and having over-delivered on the synergies is no mean feat. To give an idea of the magnitude of the task this involved bringing three brands Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland (and you could argue Lloyds Bank Scotland) onto a single set of IT platforms, moving 8000 ATMs and 3200 branches onto a single coherent set of systems. Training all the staff to use these systems and new processes and to do this without interrupting service to customers represents an enormous success. When it is considered that during the period of integration Commonwealth Bank (a much smaller bank) has not still not managed to fully move onto a new banking platform nor has Nationwide Building Society, though both have been trying, gives the magnitude of the achievement some context.
This massively complex programme has been achieved at significant cost to the staff of Lloyds Banking Group, not only in terms of the long hours and weekends spent (for the window for testing much of this in the live environment is only when the banks are closed) by hundereds of staff, but also the numbers of staff who have lost or will lose their jobs as a result of the integration. However the number of staff put out of work would have been far greater if HBoS had been allowed to fail.
So should Lloyds Bankig Group have been allowed to celebrate September 11th? Absolutely!
Footnote: Some of the gloss was taken off when some Halifax and Bank of Scotland online customers could not see the full details of their accounts following the September 11th weekend, but in the grand scheme of things this was a minor hiccup.