HBOS airbrushes Halifax from Scotland in branch closure plan

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The Independent Online

The Halifax name is to disappear from the façades of the bank's Scottish branches in a three-year branch closure programme north of the border following its recent merger with Bank of Scotland (BoS).

HBOS, as the merged company is known, is to close either the Halifax or BoS site in the 60 Scottish towns which contain branches of both. The moves will see the loss of 100 jobs by 2005, although the group insisted yesterday there would be no compulsory redundancies.

The closures will be split equally between Halifax and BoS branches and affected staff were "highly likely" to be offered a position elsewhere in HBOS.

Separately, all Halifax branches in Scotland will be rebranded over the next six months with facades bearing "Bank of Scotland" flanked by the logos for both brands.

A spokesman for HBOS said the Halifax name would continue to feature prominently in branches, which would still be pushing the former building society's mortgages and savings products. "To keep the two brands separate [at branch level] wouldn't have made any sense at all," he said.

HBOS did not anticipate an increase in queuing times at branches which would be taking on customers of a closed branch, with staff numbers likely to increase in some cases.

The company declined to indicate the cost of the moves, but said it did not alter costs and synergies already disclosed. There is to be no similar programme in England, where BoS has no retail outlets.

Market research found 75 per cent of Scots perceive Bank of Scotland to be the premier financial services brand, against 63 per cent for Royal Bank of Scotland and 50 per cent for Clydesdale Bank. Halifax scored only 51 per cent. Scots also rate Bank of Scotland the most recognisable brand, over BBC 1, British Airways, McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

Royal Bank of Scotland is today expected to produce research showing it to be the financial services brand with the best reputation for customer service.

BoS's bank branch network is the largest in Scotland.