Lloyds joins the telephone banks: Move follows TSB's new nationwide service

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The Independent Online
Lloyds Bank is planning to launch a telephone banking service early next year. The bank will kick off with a pilot scheme for about 10,000 customers offering a manned service from 8am to 10pm every day.

Lloyds' move means that all the big clearing banks offer their customers the option of telephone banking, and it follows TSB's announcement this week of a nationwide telephone banking service targeted at its 7 million customers.

The TSB brings the total number of fully fledged telephone banking services to five. The other four are run by Midland, National & Provincial, NatWest and the Bank of Scotland. Barclays is running a pilot scheme, which is expected to be expanded very shortly.

Telephone banking gives clients all the facilities offered through branches, and would seem to provide banks and building societies with a way of cutting back on expensive networks.

The services on offer differ slightly. TSB's service will be manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even on Christmas Day customers will be able to carry out over the phone all the transactions they are used to carrying out in a branch - including paying bills, getting a balance, ordering statements and changing direct debits - charged at a local rate. Foreign exchange is not included.

Charges are the same as those applied to any TSB account. The bank has been running a pilot service in Tyneside and Watford over the past few months.

Firstdirect, launched four years ago, is also a fully manned, 24-hour- a-day, year-round system offering all the usual banking services.

The wholly-owned Midland subsidiary is gaining customers at 12,000 a month and in the past year has added 130,000 new customers, making a total of 400,000.

Its research shows that on average 95 per cent of its customers call at least once a month and 20 per cent call three times a month. Half the calls are received outside traditional banking hours, for example on New Year's Day last year the company received 3,000 calls.

National & Provincial Building Society has a simpler computer system. Again the system operates 24 hours a day, every day, but the telephone charge may not be local. N&P launched its system at about the same time as Firstdirect and has 170,000 users, out of a total of 2 million savers.

NatWest has two levels of telephone banking. ActionLine is a 24- hour, computer-operated service primarily aimed at its existing customers, and has 800,000 users. PrimeLine is a fully dedicated telephone banking service, where customers actually move their account. The system is manned and calls are charged at a local rate. It has about 35,000 customers. The bank is also piloting a manned telephone banking service in Manchester aimed at students.

Bank of Scotland launched Phoneline in October, aimed at its 1 million customers. The service is manned from six o'clock in the morning until midnight every day. Again all the usual banking facilities are offered.

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