Halifax’s decision to tell customers to close their accounts if they disagree with the bank’s stance on staff pronoun badges is a “disgraceful” move, its most famous former employee has said.
Howard Brown, who fronted Halifax’s TV adverts in the early 2000s, said bosses at the bank should leave “politics to the politicians”.
His comments came after Halifax tweeted a picture of a staff badge with the name Gemma on it, with the pronouns she, her and hers written underneath.
“Pronouns matter,” Halifax wrote in its tweet. “#ItsAPeopleThing”.
The pronoun badge policy, announced during Pride month, was praised by LGBT+ groups but criticised by some customers, who threatened to switch banks in protest.
Halifax, which introduced the policy to prevent “accidental misgendering”, responded by saying that customers who “disagree with our values” are welcome to shut down their accounts.
Mr Brown, 55, worked at a Halifax branch in Birmingham when executives chose him to be the face of the bank some 22 years ago. He left in 2012.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Brown said he and his former colleagues would have been “shocked” and “disappointed” by Halifax telling customers to leave if they disagreed with the policy.
“I think it’s disgraceful,” he told the paper. “It’s a service industry – you should leave politics to the politicians. They’ve got this one wrong.”
He added: “If I was a customer, I would be extremely upset. Customers are a precious commodity. You have to look after them. When you work in a service industry, you are there to serve your customers.”
A spokesperson for Halifax said the bank wanted to “create a safe and accepting environment that opens the conversation around gender identity”.
“We care about our customers’ and colleagues’ individual preferences,” the spokesperson added. “For us, it’s a very simple solution to accidental misgendering.”
Halifax said its staff are free to choose whether or not they want to wear the badges.
Huge crowds of people gathered in London on Saturday for the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride parade.
Revellers wearing face paint, glitter, jewels and sequins are taking part in Pride in London – also the first since the outbreak of the pandemic – on Saturday.
Floats lined Park Lane ahead of the main march through the capital.
More than a million people were expected to descend on the city for the parade and associated celebrations.
As part of what organisers are calling the “biggest and most inclusive event in history”, there will be a line-up of artists performing across four stages around central London.
This year’s parade, from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall, pays homage to the original 1972 march.
More than 600 LGBT+ community groups are joining the march, which will pass significant sites from the UK’s first LGBT+ movement.