Portman branches may face closure

Ramesh Sharma

April 1, 2006

A Mortgage Introducer source, said: “Portman wrote to customers of its Midlands branches saying if they didn’t use its branches then it would close them in 12 months time. This is likely to affect a lot of people. It is not just the fact it is closing branches it is the way it is doing it. By giving 12 months notice there is an air of uncertainty and clients are more likely to move away than use branches more. This also affects brokers as it could be seen that the Society is moving away from its mortgage offering.”

However, Robert Sharpe, chief executive at Portman Building Society, said: “It would not be fair to subsidise unprofitable branches by denying further investment to units that are performing well. We are, in effect, asking customers to help determine the future of their local branch by utilising the products and services offered.”

This was criticised by the source, who said: “ Giving branches 12 months to sort themselves out is unlikely to instil confidence. If it does an annual review of branch productivity, does it do similar with brokers?”

A Portman spokesperson confirmed it did not undertake reviews of brokers, stating it was a completely separate channel to branches.

Sarah Gwilt, mortgage adviser at Dickson Lishman Prince, said the effect of the possible branch closures to brokers could be minimal, but argued it could result in Portman having to enhance its product range. “If it does close more branches it will have to look after its existing borrowers better by offering competitive deals. Otherwise it will end up having no clients left.”

She added: “As Portman took over the Staffordshire BS a while ago it increased its branch network, especially in the Midlands. I am not really surprised that some branches have been put under the spotlight.”

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