Abbey National moves into Homebase stores

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The Independent Online

Abbey National is to take banking direct to the hoards who spent their weekends doing DIY by opening branches inside Homebase outlets.

The bank, which has pioneered doing business in unconventional places such as the coffee chain Costa and Safeway stores, will open its first branch in Homebase on 29 March and plans 23 more outlets within the next 18 months.

As part of the Homebase deal, Abbey will open for the first time on a significant scale on Sundays and bank holidays, as well as all day on Saturday.

Customers will be able to use practically all of the same services as in normal branches, including obtaining mortgage advice and paying in cheques, but won't be able to pay in cash.

Andrew Pople, managing director of Abbey's retail operations, said the move was an attempt to lure customers from rival banks. "We are trying to put ourselves where customers go who are not necessarily Abbey National customers. Our traditional branch network is about serving existing customers but the new branches are about reaching out to new customers," Mr Pople said.

Abbey has 700 conventional branches and 60 more in Safeway and Costa Coffee. Mr Pople said that the new hybrid outlets might replace high street branches "in one or two cases", but overall the company wants to build the network up to more than 800 branches.

Abbey will hire 160 more staff to work in its Homebase centres. The first one will be in Liverpool's Edge Lane store.

Other major banks have only strayed in a very limited way into striking partnerships with retailers. Abbey would not reveal details of the new outlets' profitability, but said branches in Costas had seen between 10 and 20 per cent more transactions.