Royal Bank of Scotland has disclosed that it has plans to close 44 of its branches around the UK, attracting widespread criticism.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is one of the banks to have borne the brunt of the public’s anger at the sector since the financial crisis. So when the taxpayer-funded bank announced earlier today that it plans to close 44 branches across the UK in response to a drop in branch transactions, customers were naturally unimpressed.
RBS says it has seen a 30 per cent drop in the number of transactions performed in branch over the past four years, as online, phone and even mobile app banking have grown in popularity. RBS even has a partnership with the Post Office whereby RBS customers can use those branches to carry out bank transactions.
As a result, it believes it is necessary to make cutback at some of its own branches, a move that will help the bank on its path to its target of cutting costs by 40 per cent in the next three or four years.
Although the need to save money in a taxpayer-supported bank might be understandable, the real criticism relates to the 14 branches that are set to be shut even though they are seen as the “last banks in town”. For some this will feel like a betrayal, both of customers and their communities; in a 2011 progress report, RBS said it would never close a bank if there was no other to serve the area.
“Many branches classed as ‘last bank in town’ are only open for a few hours a week and only see one or two customers per hour,” a spokesman said. “We have to adapt to what our customers want.”
But for a business that is 81 per cent taxpayer-owned, it is perhaps unsurprising that many citizens feel let down.
“This is a stealth attack on local communities by bailed out RBS. Taxpayers have a right to be angry that RBS has quietly embarked on a major programme of branch closures,” says Rob MacGregor, national officer at union Unite.
“There has been no proper consultation with customers in advance of the announced closures and there is a real fear that these closures will hurt the communities affected.”
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