By Marcus Leach

Handelsbanken, Sweden’s pioneering community bank, today unveiled its 100th British branch, setting out its ambitions for further record growth and local jobs in this, one of its adopted home markets.

The milestone branch, located in the West Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley, will open for individual and corporate business over the coming weeks, once the local team is in place.

With over 700 branches in 22 countries, Handelsbanken has built its success around a unique combination of decentralisation, customer satisfaction, and prudent financial management.

An independent survey of British bank customers has ranked Handelsbanken number one for satisfaction and loyalty among both business and personal customers for the second year running. This is a position the Bank has enjoyed in Sweden since surveys began in 1989.

Despite the continuing economic downturn, Handelsbanken last year announced the opening of a record 27 UK branches, leading to the establishment of a third Regional Head Office in Birmingham to support further expansion in Great Britain, its fastest growing market. Already, the Bank employs over 800 staff nationwide, with just under 600 of these working in local branches from Glasgow to Truro.

“This milestone has been reached thanks to the confidence that our customers have shown and by us sticking to our knitting, offering traditional community banking based on close personal relationships with customers," Anders Bouvin, Chief Executive of Handelsbanken in the UK said speaking ahead of a series of regional events to celebrate the 100th branch opening.

"Our belief in entrusting local decisions to experienced local staff has seen us grow rapidly, both in scale and reputation, throughout the economic slump. Although we don’t set out with specific targets, we’re well on course for another record year of expansion in Britain, as more and more customers appreciate our way of local banking.”

Sue Toulson, who will open and manage the 100th British branch said: “As a home-grown ‘Handelsbanker’, I’m thrilled to be a part of the Bank’s ongoing growth and opening a new branch, but my real focus is on giving people in Ilkley a personal, dependable and competitive alternative to other banks. My team will be able to make its own case-by-case assessments and decisions on everything from corporate credit lines to tailored personal savings and borrowing rates, and be able to serve our customers locally, without customers having to refer to call centres. We know our patch and people best, with head office there to support us.”