Banks' Welsh services criticised in language review

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Media captionMeri Huws said banks had taken a 'step backwards'

Banks must do more to improve services for Welsh speakers, a review on behalf of the language commissioner says.

Meri Huws ordered a review of what banks offered in the medium of Welsh after a rise in complaints during 2014.

A lack of Welsh-speaking staff, call handlers and online banking facilities were among the issues raised.

Others complained some cash points did not have a Welsh option, while some said they were unable to open an account in Welsh.

The review attracted 102 responses, including tweets, letters and emails.

Interviews were carried out with the four main banks in Wales - Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC and Natwest - while TSB, Santander and The Co-operative Bank answered a questionnaire.

Image caption Mervyn Owen of Barclays said only a small number of people used its Welsh language services

The inquiry found the main banks had not conducted a comprehensive review of their language policies since their creation during the last decade.

It said they must assess how those policies reflect the services they offer today, but also how they will respond to Welsh-speaking customers's needs in the future.

They should focus on developing online, app and mobile Welsh language services and should display information about the availability of Welsh speaking staff in branches, the report said.

All banks should also consider how to maintain Welsh language services in areas affected by branch closures.

HSBC said it provided a range of services for Welsh speakers and it complied with all legal requirements.

Mervyn Owen, director of Barclays Bank in south Wales, said he would like to expand Barclays' Welsh language services but only low numbers of people use existing services such as its telephone service in Haverfordwest.

"Commercially, the cost of running that unit isn't necessarily a return on the number of customers that use it but it's important for the community - as a Welsh speaker I believe that is important."

A NatWest spokesperson said it was committed to improving the services it offers to customers across Wales, while Lloyds said it continued to explore new services and technologies to meet customers' needs, including Welsh language speakers.

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