Tesco's banking arm is seeking its own credit rating as it gears up for an assault on the banking market.

Tesco Personal Finance could apply for a separate rating from credit agencies to allow it to borrow directly from the market rather than through its parent company, according to press reports.

This would help the business develop its plans to offer current accounts within 18 months and mortgages within two years, in addition to the savings accounts, credit cards and insurance services it currently provides.

“We are very much moving to being a standalone bank,” Andrew Higginson, chief executive of Tesco’s retailing services business, told the Financial Times.

“If you are going to build a sizeable [mortgage] book, you would have to start thinking about wholesale funding.”

Tesco deposits have almost doubled from £2.5bn in mid-October to about £4.5bn. It has almost six million, of which half are banking products.

Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy has pledged to transform the retailer into the “people’s bank” to capitalise on public anger over banker bonuses and multibillion-pound bank bailouts.

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