Within the financial services sector there has been diversification on a vast scale, with varying degrees of success. Financial services are increasingly viewed as products, the various branch networks as channels of distribution. The competition between banks and building societies has become a major battleground in the war for consumers' financial services expenditure. Both types of organization have a strong presence in the high street and have become major users of media advertising and other marketing weaponry. Historically, they have both enjoyed strong but different forms of relationship with their customers; these differences are rapidly diminishing as each invades the other's trading territory. This paper presents results from a study of bank-building society competition, illustrating the attributes and dimensions upon which consumers tend to base their choices. Financial services retailers are urged to base their marketing strategies upon a clear understanding of consumer needs and motives, not upon ‘me-too’ responses to competitors' moves. As many product retailers have discovered to their cost, heavy marketing expenditure cannot be a substitute for a well founded retail marketing strategy.