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NatWest apologises for patronising women, by patronising women

Image: Stylist

NatWest bank has launched a campaign that apologises to women for having patronised them in the past. But judging by the tone of the campaign, that doesn't look set to change any time soon.

The campaign saw men dressed up as 'typical bankers' in pinstriped suits and bowler hats handing out letters in copies of Stylist magazine to London commuters. The letters apologise for "creating a culture that still, in 2019, has made you feel uncomfortable and unwelcome when it comes to talking about money."

In doing so, the bank has managed to make plenty of people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, as well as pretty pissed off. The ads won't be making it into our list of brilliant print ads (opens in new tab) any time soon.

letter from NatWest to women

The letter in full, from 'Mr Banker'. Image: Stylist

This is the sort of behaviour we might expect from a bank, although that doesn't make it any less disappointing. But one of the oddest things about the campaign is that it's backed by Stylist, a publication that prides itself on providing content through a "feminist lens". That lens, it seems, has become blurred – or perhaps skewed by the subject of the campaign – money. 

The front cover of Stylist showed a bunch of flowers containing £20 notes, with a tag saying,"I'm sorry, we seem to have been using sexist imagery and language for the last few decades. But we're changing! Honestly!" However, the use of flowers, and the stereotype this suggests – that all women love them – feels tired and outdated.

Many took to Twitter to express their disgust at the campaign. The word 'patronising' came up a lot.

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Others were 'disappointed' by the campaign...

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While some wondered who the bank was trying to target...

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To its credit (or was it its detriment?), NatWest kept on replying. 

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The campaign was created in response to research by YouGov (opens in new tab), which found that 83 per cent of women feel banks don't make products easy to understand. The same survey found that 79 per cent of men felt the same – so it's not totally clear why the bank felt the need to target women in particular.

NatWest aims to help women feel more confident when talking about their finances. Sadly, this effort at doing feels misjudged, and frankly, a bit embarrassing. If it really wanted to talk to women, why did NatWest draw on an age-old stereotype of Mr Banker to do so? 

You can read more about the campaign on the NatWest website (opens in new tab), and on Stylist (opens in new tab).

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Rosie Hilder is Creative Bloq's Acting Editor. After beginning her career in journalism in Argentina – where her blogging prowess led her to become Deputy Editor of Time Out Buenos Aires – she moved back to the UK and joined Future Plc in 2016. Since then, she's worked as Operations Editor on art and design magazines, including Computer Arts, 3D World and Paint & Draw, and got the 'Apple bug' when working on US title, Mac|Life. In 2018, she left the world of print behind and moved to Creative Bloq, where she now takes care of the daily management of the site, including growing the site's reach through trying to please the Google Gods, getting involved in events, such as judging the Brand Impact Awards, and helping make sure our content serves ours readers as best it can. Her interests lie in branding and illustration, tech and sexism, and plenty more in-between.