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Barclays to create 1,000 jobs as bank helps customers in inflation crisis

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Barclays Plc plans to hire more than 1,000 staff in the coming weeks to help consumers manage their finances through the looming downturn, according to Chief Executive Officer C.S. Venkatakrishnan.

The British bank follows similar moves by HSBC Holdings Plc and Virgin Money UK Plc as consumers struggle with the fastest price rises in four decades coupled with high mortgage costs and energy bills alongside the prospect of a recession.

So far, UK credit card and spending data don’t show increasing stress, though there were signs of falling consumer confidence in September, Venkatakrishnan said in a call with analysts on Wednesday. Mortgage-holders are making some overpayments to whittle down their remaining debt, he added. The firm already has 8,000 staff available to discuss finances with UK customers. 

“We aim to hire more than 1,000 more people in coming weeks to improve that capacity,” he said after the bank’s mixed third-quarter earnings. About 1% of the bank’s customers are in what it calls financial assistance, which Venkatakrishnan said was a “fairly low number.”

HSBC has contacted about 5.5 million customers to inform them about its support offerings, a spokesperson for the bank said. “We can confirm that we are currently in the process of increasing capacity in our financial support team,” HSBC said in an emailed statement. The bank is reviewing whether to improve its forbearance tools and said more measures may be implemented in coming weeks.

Virgin Money knew some time ago that customers would need more support and has been taking on more staff, and is expecting this trend to continue, a spokesperson said.

While banks tend to earn more when interest rates rise, earnings are at risk when consumers and corporate clients fail to pay back loans in a cooling economy. Lenders have been warning for several quarters that the economic situation was set to worsen and setting aside hundreds of millions of pounds for loans that could go bad. 

Consumer confidence was near historic lows in October, spelling trouble for businesses already suffering from weakening demand. GfK’s measure of sentiment rose 2 points to minus 47 on October, near the lowest level since records started in 1974.

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