18 January 2002

Abbey woos agri sector

ABBEY National has launched a new business banking package it reckons could challenge the major high street banks in the agricultural sector.

Mark Murphy, marketing director of the banks First National business finance division, claims farmers have been "ripped-off for a long time". He estimates that small businesses in the UK pay £1.84bn/year in excessive account charges – or £600/business.

Customers will receive 3% interest on credit balances and all transactions within certain limits will be free of charge. However, to reduce costs staff will not be allocated to specific accounts and there will be no counter service.

"Anything that offers a new style of service is of benefit to customers," says Steve Ellwood, head of agricultural banking at HSBC. "But we have a team of specialists who deal with agriculture day in, day out. I think our customers appreciate that."

Lloyds TSB department chief Tim Porter also reckons his bank offers more than pure banking. "Could a new entrant to the market lend to a tenant farmer with no real capital? Our managers can make that decision." &#42