Home & Money Royal Bank of Scotland
ByJames Andrews. – Money Editor
13:14, 1 MAY 2018 Updated15:09, 1 MAY 2018
RBS is closing more than half its branches
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Following a review of its branch network in England and Wales, RBS has said it will close an astonishing 162 of them.
The reason? They are too close to NatWest branches and each other.
The vast majority of branches across the Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales are in close proximity to either another Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales branch or a NatWest branch,” the bank said.
“Customers of Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales will be able to use NatWest branches instead for their everyday banking needs,” an RBS spokesman added.
“We expect these branch closures to result in around 792 roles being made redundant.
We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected. We will ensure compulsory redundancies are kept to an absolute minimum.”
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A total of 109 branches will close in late July and August 2018.
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These branches are within 0.6 miles of another Royal Bank of Scotland or NatWest branch, the group said.
A further 53 branches will close in November 2018, all of which are between 0.6 and 2.5 miles of another Royal Bank of Scotland or NatWest branch.
The bank went on to say that as well as branches being near each other, the way people use banks has changed – putting more pressure on high-street services.
“Since 2014, branch transactions across Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales are down 30%. During this same period, there has been a 53% increase in the number of customers using mobile banking and mobile transactions have increased by 74%,” the RBS spokesman said.
Unions roundly condemned the move, especially as RBS is still 72% owned by the Government.
Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said: “How does a taxpayer funded institution spend £1.8 billion on a failed IT project and in the next breath demolish the much needed local bank branches?
“Today nearly 1,000 employees have finally been told of their dark futures because the bank has been calamitously managed for too long.”
They’re not alone, either.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), added: “This fresh round of closures will hurt high streets all over the country at a time when thousands of small firms are already struggling.
“When a bank branch goes it means less footfall, less cash in the local economy and less revenue for local small firms as a result.”
“If small firms can’t easily deposit takings it makes them targets for theft. Many small business owners have built up relationships with branch personnel that go back years – that’s not something that can be replaced by an app.”
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Williams & Glyn – the bank that never quite was
For the past few years, the plan had been to take the RBS branches in England and Wales, and spin them off into a new “challenger bank” called Williams & Glyn.
“The Royal Bank of Scotland retail banking business in England & Wales has essentially been run as a standalone bank for around eight years,” RBS said.
That plan is now over.
“We are no longer launching Williams & Glyn as a challenger bank, and we now have two branch networks operating in close proximity to each other,” the RBS spokesmen said.
“As a result we have had to review our overall branch footprint in England and Wales and we’ve made the difficult decision to close a number of Royal Bank of Scotland branches.”
Last year, RBS avoided the compulsory sale of Williams & Glyn, which had been ordered by regulators as part of the bank’s obligations under state aid rules following its £45billion Government bailout at the height of the financial crisis.
Instead, RBS will put up money to be shared among so-called “challenger banks” to help them better compete with bigger players.j
Others were highly critical of the decision to abandon the project.
“The Williams and Glyn saga rolls on as Royal Bank of Scotland continues with its shambolically poor management of this business,” Unite’s MacGregor said.
The FSB’s Cherry said: “It’s thoroughly disappointing to see RBS using the failed sale of Williams & Glyn as an excuse to further decimate the UK’s bank branch network.”
He added: “The £800 million that RBS has put up to avoid the sale of Williams & Glyn needs to be placed in the hands of those that will really make a difference. It was frustrating to see the £45 million of dedicated funding for free branch access removed from the revised RBS package.”