THOUSANDS of small business customers of Lloyds Bank will no longer have face-to-face access to an adviser because they do not earn the bank enough money.
Scotland on Sunday has learned that unless they have a turnover of more than £1 million or a loan of at least £50,000 they will be referred to a call centre. The bank says it needs them to meet these thresholds in order for it to collect £5,000 in fees.
It will write to thousands of customers informing them of the changes which include 1,000 branch-based job losses announced last week. In Scotland, 108 relationship managers will be axed.
One small business customer of Lloyds said: “There are a lot of small firms out there who do not generate anywhere near £1m in turnover or have big loans, but they do need personal contact and that is being taken away.”
Lloyds said the changes are part of a reorganisation that will improve customer service by offering better online and telephone connections for those who prefer to do their banking that way.
A spokesman said: “We are committed to offering the best possible service to our SME [small and medium-sized enterprise] clients. This announcement is part of a wider reorganisation of our business to help us cater more effectively for the needs of our clients – including many smaller firms that want to make more use of the telephone and internet to manage their day-to-day banking and the increasing number of start-ups we are helping to support.
“All of our clients will continue to have the support of specialist business managers and for our smallest clients, these will be managers based in our central teams.
“We want to ensure that all our clients get the right level of support, whatever their size, sector, or location – and however they bank with us.”
The move came as the directors of a group of companies in Ayrshire said they were planning to sue Royal Bank of Scotland over alleged “abusive and anti-competitive practices” which they claimed forced them out of business.
Solicitors acting for Allan Clark and Gregor Cameron, former co-directors of Kilmarnock-based AJ Clark Construction and three associated companies, have written to the bank accusing it of abusing its dominant position to boost its own profits at their expense, for which they are seeking undisclosed damages.
Their case is typical of those highlighted by Lawrence Tomlinson who compiled a report claiming RBS was forcing companies out of business in order to profit from their assets.
Lawyers have also written to the Office of Fair Trading, asking it to investigate practices used by the bank’s global restructuring group against the companies and other SME customers of the bank at the time.
The directors claim the bank removed hundreds of thousands of pounds from their account without notice, forced them to pay for costly external accountants, raised their borrowing costs without consulting directors and used a security banned by enterprise finance guarantee rules.
Three of the four companies, which employed 60 staff directly and 100 indirectly and had a joint turnover of £19.5m, were placed in receivership and a fourth in administration in March last year.
An RBS spokesperson said: “We are aware of the allegations made in this case and have found no evidence to support them. These type of allegations are extremely damaging and it is why we have appointed [law firm] Clifford Chance to run an independent review.”