Handelsbanken, a local relationship bank that now has 207 branches across the UK, has announced that in the first quarter of this year the amount lent to businesses was up 9% on Q1 2015 at £10.57 billion, while lending to households (largely mortgages) rose by 17% to £5.29 billion over the same period.
Last year Bloomberg again named Handelsbanken as one of the most financially strong banks in the world – the only European bank which has been in the top twenty every year since the list was founded.
In South Wales, the bank has four branches in Cardiff, Bridgend, Newport and Swansea, with a combined relationship management team of 21 servicing both the corporate and individual banking markets across the region. Each branch takes responsibility for customers in its own community, and all key decisions are also made in-branch.
The concept of banking appears to be a straightforward one, but these days it often means different things to different people. Technological developments are transforming banking as we know it, from telephone banking services and mobile apps to the rise of banks operating entirely online. For some people, the relative anonymity of internet banking can seem appealing, while for others, knowing their bank manager and being able to talk with them is very valuable.
“We believe in traditional local relationship banking, where each branch knows their local community and works with customers to find the best outcome based on their individual financial requirements. It’s a customer led, decentralised way of banking, with branches having the power to take the decisions that count, for example on borrowing and pricing – and we also provide full internet banking and mobile apps,” said Steve Smith, Branch Manager at Handelsbanken Swansea.
Independent research suggests this approach works for Handelsbanken’s customers. In a recent EPSI independent customer survey, published in October 2015, more than two-thirds of their individual and corporate banking customers said they chose Handelsbanken following a recommendation from a friend, colleague or family member. Furthermore, 96% of customers recognised the value of having their own personal banking manager, who they can contact at any time.
“It’s true that our approach is different to that of many banks, for example, we have no sales or volume targets and as a result, no bonus related pay schemes. Instead we trust our staff to know their customers and to make the right decisions for them. Above all, we believe in the importance of long term relationships with our customers and the communities we serve,” concluded Steve.