UK banking group HBOS is to open 100 new Halifax branches over the course of the next five years in a move that will create 1500 new jobs.
Halifax, the former building society which merged with Bank of Scotland in 2001 to create HBOS, currently has around 1000 branches and estate agencies across the country.
Halifax says its new branch opening programme is its largest network expansion since the 1970s and will see a new branch opening approximately every fortnight for the next five years.
The new branches will be located in the South of England, with around 50 in towns where there has previously been little or no Halifax presence. The other 50 or so will involve existing branches moving to other locations in the same towns. Each branch will have approximately 19 banking staff, including mortgage and investment advisers.
The bank says the expansion adds up to around a 15% increase in its representation in the South of England.
Andy Hornby, chief executive designate, HBOS, says: "Branches are at the heart of retail banking. We need more branches in the South of England and now we will have them. The right branch coverage really helps us to deliver our market share targets. This is a big opportunity for us to continue to win customers from the Big Four banks."
The news follows a damning report published last month by Nottigham University which found that banks and building societies in the UK have closed one in five branches in the last ten years despite research showing that the majority of customers still prefer to do their banking at a branch.
Research conducted by Forrester found that UK consumers are among the most frequent branch visitors in Europe with 55% visiting a bank every month.
Halifax says its research shows that over two-thirds of customers (76%) using branches are more likely to bank with a financial provider with conveniently located branches.
As well as investing in bricks and mortar, Halifax says it will also continue to invest in its telephone and online banking services as well as its insurance arm esure.
UPDATE: HSBC has announced plans to spend £400 million on 50 branches in new locations and undertake refurbishment of a further 200 existing sites this year. The initiative, signalled on the day of the bank's annual results statement, Monday 6 March, indicates a renewed focus on the bank branch as an effective vehicle for selling new products.