A deadline of December has been set by Asda for the launch of its own brand bank. The launch ­ a strategic about turn ­ is a joint venture with a third party supplier rumoured to be HFC. Asda decided to rent out a handful of concessions to Lloyds TSB in 1997, criticising its rivals for launching banks. Tony De Nunzio, then commercial director and now chief operating officer, said in 1997: "Having standalone concessions in-store leaves banking to the experts and lets us stick to shopkeeping." But Asda said this week: "We intend to launch a holistic financial services solution at the end of the year. We have not finalised what products will be on offer and we are not releasing any further details until launch." Asda already sells pet and travel insurance off the shelf, and is likely to offer loans and credit cards through the new bank. It has also held talks with motor insurers about adding car insurance to its on-shelf roster. l Meanwhile Tesco has told City analysts that it will focus on extending the penetration of its personal finance operations. Tesco Personal Finance, Tesco's partnership with Royal Bank of Scotland, was the fastest growing part of its business in 2001. Pre-tax profits for the year to February 23 2002 were £40m, compared with £6m the year before. {{NEWS }}