HUNDREDS of staff at Bank of Scotland are to lose their jobs, with dozens of branches to be shut down across the country, after Lloyds Banking Group yesterday announced plans to slash its workforce by 9,000.
The state-backed group is to close 200 Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland branches as part of a new strategy that will see it concentrate on online banking.
The Lloyds group employs 16,000 people in Scotland, where there are currently 293 branches of Bank of Scotland. The closures spell an end to the commitment by Lloyds to be the “last bank in town” and represent around one-tenth of its network of 2,000 sites.
The exact number of BoS branches set to be closed over the next three years has not been announced but it is understood the process will begin with the targeting of towns that currently have two branches.
The announcement came as the group stunned the City by setting aside a further £900 million for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance, for which its total bill now stands at £11 billion.
Lloyds said it will be investing in remote services, whereby customers will be able to get advice via their iPads or mobile phones using Skype, instead of going into their local branch.
Lloyds said the move would see a net closure of 150 branches, with 200 closed and 50 new branches opened. Lloyds finance director George Culmer said Halifax branch numbers would be maintained and the business would add sites in Scotland, where it currently has only three.
The company said more than 90 per cent of Lloyds and Bank of Scotland customers would continue to have a “useable branch” within five miles of their home.
Mr Culmer said of the previous pledge to keep branches open: “That was a specific commitment we made over the last planned period. We won’t be able to commit to that going forward.”
Outlining a new three-year strategy for the bank, which is 24 per cent owned by the tax- payer, chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said “regrettably” this would require 9,000 job cuts from the 85,000-strong workforce as the business was “digitised”. The changes are expected to save £1bn by 2017.
Mr Horta-Osorio said: “This is a highly competitive market and customer behaviour is changing. Increasingly our customers want to access our services in many different ways, via branches, via digital or via mobile.”
A statement from the company said: “We will realign our branch capabilities to operate more efficiently, increasing self-service technology and investing in remote advice services, with an increasing number of counter transactions migrating to digital and self-service.”
Yesterday Rob MacGregor, national officer of the Unite union, said: “These are deeply unsettling times for Lloyds staff, who after days of speculation and leaks face yet another round of job cuts and a future of uncertainty.
“Job cuts of approximately 10 per cent could have unknown consequences on customer service and will put even more pressure on staff who have helped get the bank back on the right track.
“The wallets of top executives should not be getting fat by forcing low-paid workers on to the dole. If there are compulsory redundancies or customer service suffers, then executive pay should be cut.”
The 9,000 job cuts will fall throughout the business. Mr Culmer said: “It is regrettable but this is about changing customer needs.
“We will work very, very hard to make sure that we lessen the impact as much as we possibly can on our people.”