British bank Lloyds to cut 9,000 jobs, close 200 branches in efficiency bid

LONDON – Britain’s Lloyds Banking Group said Tuesday it will eliminate 9,000 jobs over the next three years and shut some 200 branches in a bid to improve efficiency.

The group has been partly owned by the British taxpayer since it was rescued during the financial crisis and has been under pressure to cut costs.

Its executives had pledged three years ago to keep its number of branches at a consistent level despite the cuts, but Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said Tuesday that strategy has now changed.

The closures will impact roughly a tenth of its network of 2,000 branches. The bank said many of the closures would be in town centres where the bank has more than one facility.

Lloyds expects customers to continue shifting to online services and self-service machines instead of having face-to-face contact in branches. It plans to invest 1 billion pounds ($1.61 billion) in digital technology in the next three years.

In a statement, it said the branch cuts would allow it “to operate more efficiently.”

Unite union officer Rob MacGregor said executive pay at Lloyds should be cut if customer service suffers and people are forced out their jobs.

“These are deeply unsettling times for Lloyds staff, who after days of speculation and leaks face yet another round of job cuts and a future of uncertainty,” he said.

Lloyds finance director George Culmer said the job cuts are “regrettable” and reflect changing customer needs.

The announcements came as the bank reported an improvement in earnings as the broader U.K. economy recovered.

Net interest income, a measure of revenue, increased to 3.03 billion pounds in the third quarter from 2.76 billion pounds a year earlier. It made a net profit of 693 million pounds, up from a loss of 1.3 billion pounds last year, when it was hit by big one-time charges.