British bank chief adds fuel to outsourcing fire

Tuesday, 24 February 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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LONDON: The chief of Britain's Alliance & Leicester (A&L) bank has added fuel to the offshoring fire by implying that the customer accounts of banks that have such operations are less secure.

Richard Pym, chief executive of A&L, ignited the debate as A&L reported a 12 percent hike in full-year pre-tax profits of 525 million pounds, near the top end of market forecasts.

A&L employs between 1,500 and 2,000 call centre workers in Britain and has reiterated its commitment to retaining them.

Royal Bank of Scotland has also committed to retaining its British call centre jobs.

Asked why he preferred to keep A&L's call centre staff in Britain, Pym said: "Firstly, because customers prefer it. Customers tell us they are transferring their business to us because of that.

"Secondly, for security reasons. The greater the geographical distance, the greater the security risk."

Responding to Pym's concerns about security, a spokesman for HSBC said: "To say security is not a concern would be complacent in the extreme.

"But I don't think there is any relationship between overseas processing and security. It is a slightly spurious connection, and one that people who aren't convinced of the merits of offshoring are talking about."

He said in the modern technological age it didn't matter whether information was being transferred digitally from Leeds or India.

Challenged on whether it was easier for determined gangs of criminals to bribe low-paid call centre workers than counterparts in Britain, Pym said: "I would suggest that is nonsense. If organised criminals want access to that data, it is irrelevant whether they are in Leeds or India."

Meanwhile, organisers of a new recruitment drive in Ayrshire are hoping to reverse the flood of call centre jobs being switched to India.

The Ayrshire Call Centre Roadshow aims to raise awareness of the opportunities that still exist in the sector at home.

Source: IANS
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