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.