UK banking group Hbos has disclosed plans to invest £160 million in expanding its operations in Australia, including the opening of 160 new branches on the more densely populated east coast of the country.
Hbos has been operating BankWest in Australia for ten years, with 86 branches in western Australia and but just four branches in the east coast states where almost 80% of the country's population live.
The UK bank says it will spend £160 million during 2007 and 2008 on expanding the unit out to the major cities along the eastern coast of the country - Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - where 50% of the total population live.
The investment encompasses the branch programme and costs such as IT infrastructure, says Hbos, as well as the development of the group's insurance and investment business. The expansion will create 3000 new jobs in Australia.
Hbos hopes to target a further 11 million potential new customers with the east coast expansion and win customers from the big four banks in Australia - National Australia Bank, Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank and ANZ - which between them have a market share of about 70%.
Hbos Australia chief executive, David Willis, says: "BankWest has already shaken up the status quo with the high interest deposit and innovative credit card products, attracting thousands of customers from across Australia.
"This initiative offers customers a real alternative to the big four and a better deal."
The expansion programme involves opening more than 125 retail banking branches and 35 branches focused on business customers. New branches will be located in major East Coast shopping centres, retail precincts or commercial districts, with the first units opening later this year.
The retail expansion programme will be led by BankWest retail chief executive Ian Corfield, who led a similar branch expansion for Hbos in Ireland. BankWest Commercial CEO Paul Clark is leading the business banking programme.