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RBS to close NatWest branches and cut 600 jobs as customers go online

The Royal Bank of Scotland is set to close branches and cut jobs due to the rapid take up of digital banking services

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is closing 32 branches and cutting 600 jobs, blaming changing customer banking habits. A total of 200 jobs will go in London, with around 400 in the Midlands and north England also being lost.

RBS said the cuts are part of the banks strategy to meet customer demand for digital services. Between 2010 and 2014, there was a 30% drop in branch transactions, according to the bank.

“Banking has changed significantly over the past few years, and the way our customers want to interact with us is also changing,” said RBS. “We have to continually adapt to meet our customers’ needs to ensure we remain viable and relevant both now and in the future.”

UK citizens use a mix of channels to interact with their banks and make transactions, according to recent Forrester research. It found that 28% use mobile banking, with 73% now banking online, compared with 69% in 2015.

Moray McDonald, a senior executive at RBS, told a House of Commons committee in 2015 that hundreds of millions of transactions, which were previously completed in branches, have moved online. “We are seeing a revolution in the way our customers want to bank,” he told the committee. 

But the Forrester research also revealed that a significant 36% of customers still visit bank branches.

“Despite the migration of routine interactions to digital channels, many customers still want to visit a branch and talk to someone when buying a product or seeking advice,” said Forrester analyst Aurélie L’Hostis.

Read more about the impact of technology on bank branches

Even mortgage advice is now being offered via video links. For example, Lloyds Bank and Halifax customers can now receive face-to-face  mortgage   advice via video link.

Nationwide Building Society also offers video-based mortgage consultations in branches. It expects the service to reduce waiting times and increase access because customers can meet a consultant at a time that suits them. It was first used to enable mortgage consultants and was later expanded to include financial planning managers and personal banking managers.

A Computer Weekly  survey in 2015 revealed the main reason most people go to the bank is to pay in cheques. The next most common reason to visit a branch was to transfer money.

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