It’s not quite the big bang Australian’s banking cartel have been dreading, but HBOS this morning at least lit the fuse by declaring its east coast strategy.

Scottish banking giant HBOS announced it will open 160 east coast branches over the next three to four years starting in this December quarter. And it’s all about hitting the big four where it hurts.

HBOS happily describes the move as “stepping up its assault on the Australian banking industry”, saying dissatisfaction with the existing banks is the main driver for its expansion here, supported by Australia’s strong economy and population growth.

Already operating here under the BankWest brand, HBOS says 60 per cent of Australian banking customers say that if they change banks, it would not be for one of the big four.

But the number that really scares the locals is that Australia’s banks enjoy an interest rate margin of 2.3 per cent while HBOS runs on 1.8 per cent.

Peter Fray

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