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Principality poaches commercial lending team; COUP: Aim is to grow niche market over five years, as Bank of Wales is left organising replacements.

THE commercial lending team of Bank of Wales has joined the Principality Building Society in a move underlining the society's ambition to become a serious player in the niche sector.

The audacious swoop, masterminded by Principality's chief executive Peter Griffiths, has already seen former Bank of Wales commercial lending expert Charles Bithell join the society as head of commercial underwriting. He will shortly be joined by Paul Williams, John Ursell and Gareth Redding, who are still at the Bank of Wales as commercial lending managers.

The new team will be headed by Principality's director of business development Michael Maguire.

Tenby-born Mr Griffiths, who took over at the helm of Cardiff-based-Principality earlier this year from John Mitchell, said the commercial lending market represented an area of high growth potential for the society. Mr Griffiths said, ``Commercial lending is only a small part of our book, but with this new team we are looking to grow this niche market significantly over the next five years.

``I am delighted to have secured the services of the Bank of Wales's commercial lending team. Their expertise and localised knowledge of the commercial lending market place is second to none. They will be a tremendous asset for the Principality and I am delighted to have secured their services.''

The building's society commercial lending department is expected to grow to 15 in the short period, with average lending deals for develop-ment and investment finance currently in the region of pounds 500,000.

Mr Griffiths said the capture of the Bank of Wales team was the right move.

He added, ``We could have looked to have grown our own commercial lending section incrementally. However, bringing in this expert team was the right strategy.

``As a society we are looking to diversify and expand our product range, which sometimes requires bringing experts in.''

However, Mr Griffiths said that the society has no plans to move into corporate banking.

Bank of Wales is a subsidiary of banking giant HBOS formed by the recent merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland.

Yesterday Bank of Scotland's di-rector of public relations for business banking, Barry Gardener, said Bank of Wales would not be moving out of the commercial lending market.

He added,``People in business move from time to time and in a way we see it as a compliment that Principality has recruited from us, but we would not like them to make a habit of it.

``We wish those who have left all the best in their new roles. However, they will be replaced and we are looking to increase our commercial lending activities in Wales.''

Bank of Wales currently employs only 44, part of which is its successful corporate banking team.

Mr Gardener said HBOS currently had no plans to ditch its Bank of Wales brand, but said such matters were reviewed on a regular basis.

CAPTION(S):

BANK ON US: From left, Jon Ursell, Paul Williams, director if business development Michael McGuire, Gareth Redding and Charles Bithell
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 20, 2002
Words:498
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