Don’t give up on the high street, warns boss of Halifax

Russell Galley, Managing Director Halifax Bank.
Russell Galley, Managing Director Halifax Bank.

Banks need to focus on their branch network as much as their digital offering in order to make sure all of their customers are catered for, the boss of Halifax has claimed.

Russell Galley, Halifax chief executive, told The Yorkshire Post that a business model for banks which involved fewer and fewer staff was not the right path and that people still require face-to-face banking that is fit for purpose in 2017.

Mr Galley, whose bank employs more than 4,000 people in the region and was the most switched to bank last year, also said that he expected Halifax’s multi- million pound new London flagship branch to the biggest in the UK of any banking brand and that work was underway to open similar “mega branches” around the country,

Now 20 months into his tenure as Halifax boss, Mr Galley - who was born in Barnsley and started his career at Halifax as a cashier - also said that the bank’s results and track record for attracting new customers suggested the brand was strong and had put the negative perceptions of the industry into the past.

Mr Galley said: “Being a major bank requires us to have a strong physical presence because that encourages them to use digital knowing there is a network there.

“Next year London flagship biggest single bank branch of any brand in the UK. That is a demonstration for me of the physical presence and from me a determination to push Halifax in London and the South East which historically is a market that has been slightly less successful.

“Barclays are strong there. They have chosen a model that is very high on technology and very low on people, that is not a model I would deploy with Halifax, I believe in high on technology and high on people. And I think that more down to earth and that personality is really critical for our success.”

Halifax itself became the latest bank to announce closures in April of this year, with 22 outlets to be shuttered nationwide, including three in Yorkshire.

Mr Galley has enjoyed a long and varied career in the banking industry. Starting out in his own words as “cashier number 14” in a local Halifax branch he went in a number of managerial and director roles. Prior to his appointment as chief executive at Halifax he ran the international wealth business for the Lloyds Banking Group of which Halifax is part.

In its most recent results Lloyds more than doubled its profits to £4.24bn and said the Halifax component of the group had made a significant contribution towards that.

Asked why the bank was performing so well, Mr Galley said: “We are incredibly advanced digitally. We have a great branch network of 650 branches, that is a lot smaller than a lot of the clearing banks. Because of the relatively smaller physical presence that Halifax has got we have always been at the leading edge of encouraging other channels, so actually from a brand perspective we meet 75 per cent of our customer needs digitally, compared with 40 per cent just five years ago.

“In a world where you see lots of branches closing the tangible example of a massive three story state-of-the-art bank being built in the middle of London is quite a statement I think.

“For inspiration I think John Lewis is a good example in that it sees a significant portion of activity moving online yet continues to invest and open physical presence.”