Can Lloyds become the UK's best bank?

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Lloyds branchang Tan/AP/Press Association Images

Lloyds TSB has set out radical plans to become the UK's 'best bank'. As part if its new strategy it has pledged that there won't be any branch closures for at least three years, and that it will transform itself to a customer-centred organisation.

So is this metamorphosis going to happen?

The strategy

You have to applaud the effort. Chief executive, António Horta-Osório, has gone out on a bit of a limb here, personally associating himself with this bold ambition.

He said: "We want to put the customer at the heart of everything we do and it is why last year we put a moratorium on branch closures. Today we commit to keeping the same number of branches on a net basis, over the next three years. And we also commit not to close a branch if we are the last one in a community."

The bank is 41% owned by the taxpayer, and is finally getting the message that as owners and customers, we ought really to be more central to the concerns of the organisation.

So is it going to achieve its aims?

It would be cruel to judge harshly before Horta-Osório has a chance to give it a go, but those of us who are customers won't be holding our breath.

The problem is that Lloyds hasn't exactly done well when it comes to customer service in the past. The annual Which? poll of customer service in banks yet again saw First Direct and the Co-Operative Bank at the top of the table, while Lloyds struggled in mid-table, matching the average satisfaction score for the industry.

Meanwhile it tends to scale the heights in the league tables of complaints. In the most recent round of figures it came in with the second most complaints - after Barclays. It didn't even do particularly well at settling those complaints - leaving a quarter of them outstanding after eight weeks.

As someone who is met with a constant barrage of sales from Lloyds staff, not an ounce of flexibility, and (once or twice) frank rudeness, it feels like this bold ambition requires a complete cultural overhaul of the business.

Is it up to the task of improvement? The jury is out. Should Horta-Osório even be attempting this near-impossible feat? Let us know in the comments.

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