Halifax chief welcomes competition as customers increase

HALIFAX is continuing to win market share from its retail banking rivals as customers look for brands they can trust.

That’s according to David Nicholson, head of the Yorkshire banking chain, who also said he was committed to maintaining its network of 670 high street branches.

Speaking to TheBusinessDesk.com, Bradford-born Mr Nicholson said Halifax has £130bn of mortgages and more than £100bn in savings and current accounts under management.

He said despite increased use by customers of online and mobile banking services, 85% of people still wanted to do their banking at Halifax face-to-face.

“The bit we want to do even more of for our customers is rewarding them, offering simple and straightforward advice and our people being friendly and personable,” the group director said.

He said Halifax, which was part of the HBOS brand taken over by Lloyds Banking Group in 2009, was targeting more current accounts and that it had largely been unaffected by people’s perceptions of the banking sector in the wake of the Lehmans collapse.

“We know customers are going through tough times and they’re concerned about what their bank does,” said Mr Nicholson, who took the Halifax top job in March 2011. “We’re absolutely committed to making our customers better off.

“There hasn’t been the levels of uncertainty (in Halifax) you might think their would be. This is where our brands come to the fore.”

He said only one out of 10 customers were aware that Halifax was part of Lloyds.

He added: “Generally there’s a mistrust of banks. However, people do still see Halifax for its building society roots. The most important thing is that we’ve got to keep understanding our customers and what we’re delivering for them.”

Commenting on the bank’s performance, he said: “We have just over three million main current accounts. That’s growing by about 7% per annum. We’re right now the most switched to brand.”

Halifax has won new customers through products including its Reward account, which offers people a guaranteed bonus of £5 a month. There’s also a £100 incentive to switch to Halifax from other banks.

On the savings side, Halifax offers prize draws with guaranteed prizes ranging from £100 to £250,000.

“We’ve got coming up to 1.25m customers with £5,000 or more savings with us. It’s fantastic to see and these initiatives have really captured people’s imaginations.

Mr Nicholson said Halifax had around a third of the new buy mortgage market. However, he said the fastest growing area of the organisation, which employs 2,000 people at its Trinity Road headquarters in Halifax town centre, was digital banking.

“The great thing for me is that the market is going to get more competitive. And I like that because I like being competitive.”

Mr Nicholson said he embraced calls for retail and investment banking to be separated in the industry.

“The focus is to focus on the UK and help it to prosper,” he added.