Abbey to recruit 600 staff in banking war

Abbey National is to recruit around 600 staff across the UK as part of a push to snatch market share from its rivals in the business banking market, it said today.

Abbey National is to recruit around 600 staff across the UK as part of a push to snatch market share from its rivals in the business banking market, it said today.

Abbey said the 18-month recruitment drive was in order to challenge the ‘‘big four’’ clearing banks Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland in the business banking and finance markets.

The move comes hot on the heels of an aggressive push by rival HBOS - the merged Halifax and Bank of Scotland - into the small business banking market.

The rival last week announced plans to offer a current account for small businesses paying interest of 2%.

However Abbey said its push was not a reaction to HBOS’s move, but had been a strategy the bank had been planning for the last 12 to 18 months.

To capture more market share, the group is launching a new business bank account early next year, which it said would be a ‘‘major step forward in dismantling the domination of the big four banks’’.

Gary Hockey-Morley, director of business banking at Abbey, said: ‘‘The small business banking market has been milked by the big four banks for far too long and this particular cash cow is due for slaughter.

‘‘We are committed to breaking up the cosy world of the big four and our solution is simple better value products, better service and treating the customer as an individual.’’

Of the staff to be recruited, Abbey is planning to take on 500 to work as branch-based advisors.

There will also be 50 recruited as sales managers at Abbey’s First National subsidiary, while more than 60 will be hired as support and administrative staff at Taunton, Newport, Milton Keynes and Redhill.

Abbey, which introduced a business and professional banking service in 1998, currently employs 1,100 people in its business banking division.

Mr Hockey-Morley said: ‘‘We already have a proven track record in our business finance division and have had a successful year to date, with our Asset Finance Group, trading under the First National brand, lending nearly £500m to customers.

‘‘We now plan to build on these successes by providing our new business banking customers with a wider range of business finance services.’’

Abbey was the subject of a £18bn takeover bid by Lloyds TSB in the summer, but the bid was blocked by the British government which said the deal would reduce competition in the personal current account market and in banking services for small businesses.

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