Barclays planning Asda branches

Barclays fundraising

Barclays is to open a string of branches in Asda stores from next year, offering seven-days-a-week banking services.

Eight branches will open by early 2014 under a pilot scheme in locations including Cheshire, West Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and East Kent.
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Barclays said the move will offer its customers the flexibility of longer opening hours, which will mirror those of the Asda stores the branches are located in, as well as providing more convenient parking access.

It said that branches will be located in clearly defined and branded areas within the Asda stores, so that customers can do their banking in private.

The first branch will be opened in Asda Birchwood in Cheshire in February. Store trading hours will be from 8am to 10pm, six days a week and 10.30am to 4.30pm on Sundays.

A further three branches will open in Asda stores in Pudsey in West Yorkshire, North Watford in Hertfordshire and Broadstairs in East Kent, with the aim to extend the pilot to open eight branches in total by early 2014. The locations of the other branches are yet to be announced. B ranch facilities will be kept open to mirror the stores' trading hours.

Metro Bank already boasts seven-day banking among its services and Marks & Spencer, which has been rolling out bank branches in its stores since last year, also has opening hours which mirror those of the shops in which they are sited. M&S Bank offers a pager service meaning customers can carry on with their shopping instead of queuing.

Charlotte Nelson, spokeswoman for financial information website Moneyfacts, said: "Gone are the days of inflexible banking, customers now have more options than ever before, including longer opening hours, online and telephone banking and even mobile apps.

"With providers' customers living increasingly hectic lives, it's more important than ever for customers to be able to access banking facilities when they require.

"Despite an online presence it is still very important for customers to go into a bank as many processes still require this stage (such as) paying in a cheque."

Banks have been showing signs of raising competition to attract and retain customers following new rules introduced in September which make it easier for current account customers to ditch their existing provider and switch to a new one.

The new rules have cut the length of time it takes to switch a customer's bank or building society from up to 30 working days to seven and all incoming and outgoing payments are now automatically transferred to the new account.

Steve Cooper, head of Barclays retail and business bank, said: "We've spoken to our customers who use our everyday and business banking services in our branches and they've told us their time is precious so would benefit from being able to multi-task, park easily and visit branches with longer opening hours."

Karen Hubbard, executive director for property and multichannel at Asda, said that the trial is taking place in areas where the "communities need it most".

She said: "Access to banking services is an under-rated but important asset to any community but in many areas, these services just aren't available to families."

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Barclays planning Asda branches

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.

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