If you were a business on the Isle of Islay, would you see the offer of access to a Call Centre in Edinburgh as an acceptable exchange of your local bank, with a manager to consult?
Idiot question, isn’t it?
Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP, has given his backing to the many businesses on the island who have voiced concerns about HBOS’ decision not to replace their local bank manager. Instead of this familiar and personal service, they have been offered a call centre in Edinburgh.
Don’t laugh. Well – do laugh. HBOS call the source of this decision, the ‘Relationship Management Team’.
Jamie McGrigor, Argyll-based Highlands & Islands MSP, has witten to the Chief Executive of HBOS, in support of the local businesses’ position. He rams home the crucial point about the disparity between this decision and the £multi-million trading of many Islay businesses.
This island is no backwater. It is at the forefront of the Scotch whisky industry, one of the major contributors to the Scottish economy. But hey – a Call Centre in Edinburgh will do fine.
McGrigor has also nailed a straightforward inaccuracy – one could use the word ‘untruth’ – in a Bank of Scotland statement that, before making its decision, the bank had consulted its customers, who were happy with Internet banking. In fact the bank did not consult Islay on this at all.
He says: ‘Numerous small business customers of HBOS on Islay have contacted me on this subject and I share their concerns.
‘When one considers that Islay has 8 distilleries and brings in millions of pounds each year for the UK Treasury I find this move by the Bank astonishing and I fear it will hit small businesses very hard.
‘It is imperative that people who wish to deal with HBOS can do so without having to deal with a call centre outside the island.
‘In the past HBOS has always advertised the need for and the importance of personal relations between the bank and its customers.
‘While I appreciate that since the credit crunch there have to be some efficiencies and economies, removing one of the most important focal points on the island of Islay should not be one of them. It is a vital link to the prosperity and wellbeing of an island which underwrites a great deal of business for the UK economy.
‘I am particularly concerned that the Bank of Scotland had issued a standard letter saying they had done a survey of their customers which showed they are happy doing internet banking when not one business on the island of Islay has taken part in this survey and neither is any of them happy with the removal of a manager.
‘In addition, Highlands & Islands Enterprise has highlighted the a strong relationship element between banks in the Highlands and their customers’.
Gus Newman of the innovative Islay boat-building business, Stormcats, told Jamie McGrigor:
‘I cannot understand how a business with a system that works very well supporting over 300 local businesses and is so important to the economy of an Island, is pulling a service that is needed and they can pull out with any consultation or real explanation. It seems they have a standard letter saying after a survey the decision was taken but no businesses on the island was consulted.
‘If this is implemented then it will cost the island jobs. It would be easier to reverse this decision now rather than pick up the pieces later. The policy of centralising services does not fit an already fragile island economy; Islay has a micro economy which the bank’s new template will not fit’.
The photograph above – of Bowmore on the Isle of Islay – is by copyright holder, Sue Anderson of Island Focus and may not be reproduced without permission.