What Is a High Street Bank?

High Street Bank is a term that originated in the U.K. that refers to large retail banks with many branch locations. The term "high street" indicates that these banks are major, widespread institutions, such as those found in the main commercial sector of a town or city. High Street is roughly synonymous with the American term "Main Street."

High Street Bank Explained

Major high street banks in the U.K. include Barclays PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS), Lloyds TSB Bank PLC, and HSBC Bank PLC. These large High Street banks typically offer a diverse selection of banking services, such as online banking, mortgages, and savings.

In addition to its retail services, Barclays engages more broadly in investment banking, wealth management, and investment management. The institution serves more than 24 million customers and clients across personal, wealth, and business units in over 40 countries. Barclays' primary listing is on the London Stock Exchange, with a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC was incorporated in 1984. Its headquarters are currently in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. The Royal Bank of Scotland provides a vast array of services to customers and clients. A taste of these includes savings, currency, fixed term and notice accounts; support with cash management; the extension of loans (personal, auto, debt consolidation, home improvement, small business, fixed and variable rate mortgage, and agricultural loans); and services as diverse as import and export, structured and asset, and invoice finance.

Many have historically considered Lloyds TSB Bank PLC as one of the "Big Four" clearing banks. Founded in Birmingham in 1765, Lloyds subsequently expanded via acquiring many smaller financial institutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1995 Lloyds and the Trustee Savings Bank merged. Together, they began to trade as Lloyds TSB Bank plc after 1999. Lloyds is both a retail and commercial bank with branches in England and Wales.

HSBC Bank PLC is one of the four major clearing banks in the United Kingdom, along with Lloyds. One of the largest international financial institutions in the world, HSBC in aggregate consists of 7,500 offices in over 80 countries and territories worldwide. Holding more deposits than loans, many consider HSBC to be less risky than other major banks. HSBC was able to fund its operations and generally maintain its share price throughout the credit crunch.

High Street Bank Versus Niche Bank

While the high street banks serve a range of customers across a variety of demographics, niche banks will usually target a specific market or type of customer. For example, the Reid Temple AME Church Federal Credit Union focuses on religious customers and has developed its schedule around church services on Sundays.