A row over Halifax’s staff pronoun badges has intensified after the bank’s most famous employee called the company “disgraceful” for telling customers they were welcome to leave if they disagreed with the move.
Howard Brown, 55, was working at a branch in Birmingham when he was chosen to appear in a series of television adverts for the company 22 years ago.
He spoke out after Halifax said this week that customers were welcome to close their accounts if they did not like the pronoun badges.
“Howard Halifax” said the bank’s attitude toward its customers was “shocking, wrong and disappointing”.
The bank was ridiculed on social media after tweeting an image of one of the badges in a post which read: “Pronouns matter. #It’sapeoplething.” The photograph showed a badge with the name “Gemma” and the pronouns “She/her/hers” written beneath.
In response, it said the measures had been brought in to prevent “accidental misgendering”, adding: “If you disagree with our values, you’re welcome to close your account.”
It then gave instructions on how to do so, informing customers that they could either call or request to close their accounts in writing.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Brown, who left Halifax in 2012, said: “If this had happened when I was working there, we’d all have been shocked and disappointed.
“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.
“I think it’s disgraceful. It’s a service industry – you should leave politics to the politicians. They’ve got this one wrong.”
Halifax, owned by Lloyds Banking Group, said the badges were optional for staff. A spokesman said the bank wanted to “create a safe and accepting environment that opens the conversation around gender identity”.