The taxpayer-owned bank announced the closures today and noted that the vast majority of Royal Bank of Scotland branches in England and Wales were in close proximity (0.6 miles) to either another RBS branch or a NatWest branch.
Further, the branches earmarked for closure are those which were due to be divested and launched as a separate challenger bank under the brand name, Williams & Glyn.
The first batch of closures (109) will take place in July and August while the remaining 53 branches will be closed in November. There will be no changes to the NatWest retail banking business in Scotland.
The full RBS branch closure list is available here (click to expand).
Branch transactions down
The lender cited the changing nature of how customers bank as a reason behind the closures. Since 2014, branch transactions across RBS in England & Wales are down 30%. During the same period, there has been a 53% increase in the number of customers using mobile banking and mobile transactions have increased by 74%.
An RBS spokesperson, said: “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; NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, in England & Wales.
“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. Customers of Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales will be able to use NatWest branches instead for their everyday banking needs.”
RBS said it will write to affected customers to let them know of alternative ways to bank in their area. But RBS customers can use NatWest branches for payments, international services, account detail changes and mandates.
Financial exclusion concerns
Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “In recent years, retail banks have made decisions to shrink their branch networks on the grounds that more people are banking online. But branches remain vital for many, particularly vulnerable people and those in rural areas.
“As a result of RBS’ decision, there is a risk of increased levels of financial exclusion. It’s important for the government to monitor this trend. If financial exclusion is increasing, the government may be required to intervene.”
Just last week, RBS announced a first quarter profit of £792m compared with £259 for Q1 2017. However a mis-selling settlement could still wipe out profits.