Clydesdale owner puts faith in digital banking for the future

The boss of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group has said the group’s digital business could one day overtake its high street brands as it leads an online push.

Chief executive David Duffy – who is currently mulling over a takeover of rival Virgin Money – told the Press Association the lender’s digital brand B had already secured more than 170,000 customers and £1.6 billion deposits after its digital-only current account launched last year.

He said it was “certainly an option” for B to eventually become bigger than traditional Clydesdale and Yorkshire brands as it invests heavily in open banking and its digital offering.

“We already have regional brands, but B is geographically neutral and more focused on millennials,” he said.

The comments come as CYBG is considering a formal takeover of rival challenger Virgin Money, having recently revealed talks over a potential £1.6 billion deal.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money is also looking to become a player in digital banking, having spent £38.3 million last year developing an app-only offer, adding to the rationale behind a tie-up between the two.

Virgin Money’s digital offering is expected to launch in the second half of the year.

The tie-up between CYBG and Virgin Money comes at a crucial time for challenger banks as they look to gain scale to take on the might of the major lenders.

Mr Duffy said: “There’s a bit of a traditional view that big banks are better than small banks, but the world has changed dramatically.

“We see scale as an opportunity, but that’s not our primary goal,” he said.

The digital capabilities of the challenger players is helping set them apart from their larger counterparts, he added.

CYBG has developed what he describes as “agile AI (artificial intelligence) based technology”.

While the big banks are struggling to retrospectively add digital banking offerings, many smaller lenders have been able to develop these platforms at a faster pace.

CYBG’s B account enables customers to secure in-app loans and offers budgeting tools, while it will also launch a new money management aggregation service, called B Aggregator, later this month.

This will allow customers to access all their bank accounts, as well as offer a password keeper and provide utility comparison and switching functions, based on an analysis of spend from customer bank data.

As with many of the UK’s retail banks, CYBG has been axing branches as more customers bank online.

The group is targeting more than £100 million of cost savings by 2019 – a drive which saw the group announce plans in January to shut around a third of its branch network in 2017 and axe 400 jobs.

But it has been opening a handful of B branches as it continues to expand the brand, in central and south London, as well as Birmingham and Manchester.

CYBG’s recent interim results showed the group fell into the red with losses of £95 million after taking a further hit on the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal, although underlying profits lifted 28% to £158 million.
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