RBS and Nat West have said in a statement today that they plan to close 158 branches, which they blamed on changing consumer behaviour and a surge in the popularity of online and mobile banking.
A spokesman for the company, which posted losses of £7Bn in February, said that 470 jobs would be lost as a result of the closures, but they were necessary due to a change in customer behaviour:
“We have seen a dramatic shift in the way our customers are choosing to bank, with more using mobile and online over traditional branch counter,” the company said. “Simple transactions undertaken in branch at NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland have fallen by 43 per cent since 2010, while online and mobile transactions have increased by more than 400 per cent.”
The closures are unlikely to be well received by local communities, as data from The Mail on Sunday recently revealed that bank and building society branches are closing at an alarming rate, with 423 bank and building society branches either closed or set to close already this year.
A spokesman explained:
“The difficult decision to close a branch is done on a case-by-case basis and takes into account a wide range of factors. This includes branch usage by personal and small business customers, and alternative ways to bank in the local area.”
However, David Torrance, Kirkcaldy’s MSP, told FifeToday he was concerned that the latest round of closures would hit elderly people, who would be unable to use modern technology. Torrance, whose was disappointed to see a long established High Street branch in Kirkcaldy listed among those branches set for closure said:
“I’m very disappointed that the RBS has decided to close its branch in the High Street,” he said. “It has been a vital part of the town centre for so long. “We hear a lot about online banking, but there is a generation that does not use online banking. Where are they supposed to go?”
RBS claims that despite the closures, it remained committed to providing services to its customers and had created a number of ‘community banker’ positions to serve rural communities, “providing customers with personal assistance and support accessing the right banking options for their needs, as well as help with achieving their financial plans and goals.”
By the end of the year, RBS intends to have hired 50 community bankers.
“As customers change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them,” a spokesman said.