800 new jobs as Tesco pushes banking ambitions

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The Independent Online

Supermarket giant Tesco today announced 800 new jobs with the opening of a customer service centre to support its personal finance operation.

The site in central Glasgow is expected to open in the first half of next year and will support the company's drive to offer a full banking service.

Edinburgh-based Tesco Personal Finance currently has six million customer accounts and offers 28 different financial products and services, including general insurance and personal loans.

Tesco has been quick to pounce amid the banking crisis, relaunching TPF as a savings brand to capitalise on rock-bottom consumer confidence in established brands, particularly among loyal Tesco customers.

The group recently bought out former partner Royal Bank of Scotland, snapping up the 50% it did not own in TPF, while there has been speculation that Tesco may bid for Northern Rock when the Government sells the lender.

Tesco also recently started opening bank branches in its stores.

Andrew Higginson, chief executive of Tesco Retailing Services, described the new service centre as a "significant step" towards a full banking service, which would include current accounts and mortgages.

He added: "It is hard to ignore that people's trust in the banking sector is at a very low ebb.

"Offering first class customer service, however, is central to our Tesco values and the new centre will most certainly help us put the Tesco into Tesco Personal Finance."

Tesco Personal Finance, which currently employs 500 people in Edinburgh, has received a £5 million grant from the Scottish Government to help create the service centre.

Today's announcement was made ahead of a visit to the company's Edinburgh base by Chancellor Alistair Darling.

He said: "This is a strong vote of confidence in Scotland's financial services industry from one of the UK's leading companies."

First Minister Alex Salmond added: "This is a significant boost for Glasgow and the wider Scottish financial sector.

"Today's announcement reinforces our reputation as a leading centre for financial services and highlights again the competitiveness of our skilled workforce."

* Chancellor Alistair Darling today praised the announcement of 800 new jobs at Tesco Personal Finance in Glasgow as an example of increased competition in the banking system.

Speaking ahead of a visit to the company's Edinburgh base, Mr Darling told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I want to see increased competition in the (banking) system and that's why Tesco's announcement today is important.

"We do need more competition in the system. The last couple of years has seen a significant reduction in the number of people, both from abroad and British-based banks, who are lending into the market.