Scotland business

Lloyds boss says Scottish bank branches 'here for decades'

Lloyds bank branch Image copyright Getty Images

The boss of Lloyds Bank in Scotland has predicted traditional branches will still be around in 30 or 40 years, as he announced a digital expansion.

Philip Grant said the banking group was creating 500 high-skilled tech jobs in Edinburgh because customers wanted more access to financial services online.

Mr Grant said he understood concerns about branch closures.

But he said Lloyds was committed to maintaining face-to-face services for vulnerable and other customers.

The bank's new tech hub will be based at its Scottish Widows headquarters, with the new jobs phased in over the next 18 months.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The hub will develop technology for a number of the bank's brands

It will develop new technology for Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Scottish Widows customers.

The announcement comes after a £3bn investment was announced last year to overhaul digital services.

Most high street banks, including Lloyds, have been shutting branches in recent years as more customers conduct their banking through apps or on the internet.

Last year, the group earmarked more than 60 branches for closure, while in 2017 it closed dozens of Lloyds, Bank of Scotland and Halifax branches.

Mr Grant told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that Lloyds Banking Group ran one in five UK bank branches, but now also operated Britain's biggest digital bank, with 16 million users.

And he said 70% of new products offered by Lloyds were acquired online.

Image copyright SFE
Image caption Philip Grant said the group's tech labs were "designing what customers will need in the future"

On branch closures, Mr Grant said: "While I understand the concern at a local level about changes we're making to that part of our service, we have a responsibility to invest in our new growing part of our business at the same time.

"The move towards digital is helping us be much more efficient, but there are lots of times when our customers need a space to come and talk to us.

"We have vulnerable customers who need that attention, and there are 'moments of truth' in our life experience where you need to speak to an individual.

"We're also making that available digitally as well, through digital videos on our app."

He added: "I think there is still a place for branch and if I was a betting man, I would say in 30 or 40 years, we'll still have bank branches in Scotland."

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Grant, who has just been named as the new chairman of the industry body Scottish Financial Enterprise, said Scotland was a great place to grow a business, despite some challenges.

"Right now the whole sector is focussing on readiness for Brexit - supporting customers in whatever the next weeks and months bring," he said.

"Beyond that, the biggest challenge we have is skills and talent and ensuring in the rapid changes in our business that we can anticipate them."

Mr Grant said there was now a drive to attract software engineers, designers and other people with technology skills who would not have previously thought of a career in financial services.

He said: "I think that's one of our biggest challenges - keeping pace with that."

For the latest business news as it happens, follow BBC presenter Andrew Black's updates each weekday morning on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme between 0600 and 0900.

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