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RBS has announced that it's closing a total of 259 branches across its network – including 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches and 179 NatWest – following a review of how people use its banking services. The closures will result in around 680 redundancies, which it hopes will be largely achieved on a voluntary basis.
An RBS spokesperson said that the decision came as a result of more and more customers choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile; since 2014, the number of customers using the network's branches has fallen by 40%, while mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period.
"Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app, and one in five only bank with us digitally," said the spokesperson. "As customers continue to change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them, so we are investing in our more popular branches and shaping our network, replacing traditional bricks and mortar branches with alternative ways to bank."
These alternatives are set to include Community Bankers, Mobile Banks on Wheels and Post Offices, with the banking group stressing that "we're providing our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – they can choose from a range of digital to face-to-face options … so that we can reach even more customers".
They said that the redundancies would be "difficult news for our colleagues," but stressed that "compulsory redundancies [will be] kept to an absolute minimum". However, understandably, unions have heavily criticised the decision; Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer, called the branch closures "savage," and asked why the Government was signing off on such a heavy package of closures, particularly when the group is still 72% owned by the taxpayer.
Others are concerned about what the closures mean for banking customers, particularly those in rural areas and those unable to access digital services. Customers will be written to directly to be made aware of the alternative ways to bank in their area, and the banking group stressed that Community Bankers would be able to assist in local communities – 103 such bankers will be in post by the end of March 2018, serving some 250 communities – and that they'd have a taskforce of 'TechXperts' (at least one in each branch) who would be on-hand to help support customers with digital skills.
The affected branches are due to close in six months' time, "in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them". If you're one of the many customers likely to be affected, what can you do?
Well, if you're happy with conducting the majority of your banking transactions online, you may not need to do anything at all, but if you'd still prefer face-to-face contact, it could be time to look elsewhere. Head to the high street to see what banking branches are available in your local area, and then check out our current account Best Buys and the top savings rates to see if any offer the kind of deal you're after, and see if you want to make the change.
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