Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Anger at Bank of Scotland's business service

Call centre
The FSB says small firms need more contact with business managers

The Bank of Scotland has been strongly criticised by small business clients over changes to the way it handles corporate customers.

The bank has moved its Business Relationship Managers out of branches, with small firms using a call centre.

The Federation of Small Businesses said there was outrage at being "abandoned" and that reliance on call centres was bad for customers and the bank.

The bank said its business managers still travelled to meet clients.

As part of Lloyds Banking Group, Bank of Scotland's market share includes nearly half the small business sector within Scotland but the FSB reckons anger is growing at its handling of clients.

Despite the bank's protestations to the contrary, our members are receiving a drop in service level, without any drop in their bank charges
Andy Willox
FSB in Scotland

Small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) are now asked to deal with bank staff at a contact centre in Edinburgh.

The criticism has already been publicised on the island of Islay, where the Bank of Scotland carried out a review and promised that a Business Relationship Manager would visit from the mainland town of Oban if that was requested.

Andy Willox, Scottish policy convener of the FSB, said the call centre approach was causing friction.

He said: "This means that partners, who must take decisions jointly, now need to conduct finance negotiations huddled around a speakerphone.

"Even returning a call is now a touch-tone labyrinth of security questions."

Mr Willox said members were also seriously worried about how they would conduct their finance renewal discussions.

"I find it astonishing that the Bank of Scotland says this is what their small business customers want," he added.

"Our members say the exact opposite. And despite the bank's protestations to the contrary, our members are receiving a drop in service level, without any drop in their bank charges."

In a small number of locations we found that most of the contact between the bank and its customers was sporadic and over the telephone
Bank of Scotland spokesman

Mr Willox said Business Relationship Managers were well-respected figures in their communities who knew their businesses, business owners and local market - allowing them to make better decisions.

The Bank of Scotland has reviewed the working of the changes introduced after it was merged with Lloyds TSB Scotland a year ago this week.

A spokesman said: "We introduced the new system for small and medium-sized enterprises after extensive market research. Since it was introduced we have increased both the amount of lending and the number of SME customers in Scotland.

"In a small number of locations we found that most of the contact between the bank and its customers was sporadic and over the telephone."

He said this meant it was no longer commercially viable in these cases to keep a face-to-face business manager.

The spokesman added: "Customers who currently have a face-to-face business manager will still be looked after by a business manager from one of our Commercial Centres.

"These business managers will travel out to see their customers on a regular basis."



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific