Abbey National is to recruit 600 extra staff for customer-facing roles in branches and call centres and rein in the activities of stand-alone Internet bank cahoot, under a major business relaunch and rebranding programme.
The radical shift in strategy follows Abbey's disastrous foray into the wholesale banking markets and its subsequent commitment to refocus its operations on customer relationship management in the personal finance area.
The bank is rewriting all of its corporate literature and shortening its brand to Abbey as part of a wide-ranging corporate make-over that takes in branches, call centres and subsidiary businesses. The new approach promises simpler accounts and services and an end to banking jargon.
Abbey says there will be 60,000 extra training days this year for people who deal directly with customers to help deliver the new approach. In addition the bank is recruiting 450 new customer facing branch staff and 150 new call centre operatives.
Cahoot, Abbey's Internet bank, will remain as a separate brand but will be more closely aligned to the mainstream banking operation. "It will have a remit to be innovative and used as a testing ground for new services and accounts," says the bank. What works well will be brought back for the benefit of all Abbey customers.
During 2004, the Inscape and City Deal brands will be replaced by Abbey, as will Scottish Mutual and Scottish Provident, for new business. The James Hay and Cater Allen brands will be retained, although some of their services will be offered under the Abbey umbrella.