The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced it is set to close 162 branches with up to 800 jobs being lost.
Noting that an increasing number of customers were using branches less often and using mobile banking, this news comes after the bank had a review of its network in England and Wales.
According to chief executive Ross McEwan said the axe will fall on English and Welsh branches run under the Royal Bank of Scotland brand. Meanwhile, customers will still be able to use RBS’s NatWest brand for its banking.
This announcement comes as the bank unveiled a profit of £1.2 billion for the first three months of 2018 – up 70% on the previous year.
RBS was previously ordered to sell 275 branches to satisfy competition regulators as a condition of its £46 billion government bailout during the financial crisis.
Campaigners have warned that small businesses, the elderly and vulnerable people suffer most when branches are shut.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said: “With RBS’ finances improving, it’s disappointing to see the majority taxpayer-owned bank continuing to reduce in-person support for the public. Local businesses rely on local bank branches, as do their customers.
“The 180 branch closures that RBS has planned will hurt high streets and particularly affect vulnerable consumers. When a bank branch closes it makes accessing cash that much harder. Less cash flow in a local economy means less growth.
“The services which RBS is offering businesses facing branch closures are falling way short of the mark. While an expansion of mobile bank van services in Scotland was promised, it has emerged that many communities are actually facing shorter visits from these lifeline vehicles. This leads to business owners travelling for hours to deposit cash, when they should be using that time to grow their firms.
“More than 90 per cent of our members bank online. There are times when we as small business owners have to visit branches though, not least when taking out a float at the start of the day and depositing cash after closing to protect ourselves from theft. Equally, as we’ve seen in recent days, there are times when online services are shut off and you need to meet with a real person.
“RBS should return the support it’s received from the public by meeting business and consumer demand for a properly resourced branch network.”