Midland boss defends managers

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A WAR of words broke out between two of Britain's top banks yesterday after criticism was levelled at the traditional bank manager.

Sir Brian Pearse, the retiring former chief executive of Midland Bank, leaped to the defence of managers who had come under attack from Martin Taylor, the chief executive of Barclays.

At the weekend Mr Taylor, who took over at Barclays at the start of this year, told BBC2's The Money Programme that the once-familiar bank manager with time to talk to customers about their loan requests would be replaced by computers.

Sir Brian, president of the Institute of Bankers, speaking at Portsmouth last night, rejected the view - ' suggested by at least one bank' - that the traditional manager was a thing of the past and credit decisions could be handled by computers.

'Although credit scoring has a role for some personal accounts let me say that I entirely disagree with the underlying sentiments of this statement.'

'Everywhere I go customers, professional advisers and the media bewail the fact that good, experienced people are no longer available locally to discuss problems and seek solutions. The decision makers are too remote,' he said.

Sir Brian, who was drafted in to Midland Bank in 1991 from his post as finance director of Barclays, said that Midland had put 207 senior managers back into the field during 1993.

Reversing a previous policy of centralising senior staff and reducing Midland branches to the role of selling financial products, these new area managers have charge of between six and 15 branches.

Sir Brian, due to retire at the end of the month, said that as a result complaints were down very sharply and new business approaches showed a substantial increase.