RBS to close a number of UK branches, to focus on digital banking
The Royal Bank of Scotland or RBS, one of the four high street banks and clearing agents in the UK, has decided to change the way it offers services. The bank has decided to overhaul its functioning and make digital banking a priority for itself. It is closing down a number of branches as it sees red for the ninth consecutive year. Precisely, it will close down 158 branches across the UK and focus on electronic mode of banking. The majority of the branches that the bank will close are Natwest branches. Most branches will be shut down in September or October.
The bank is shifting its functioning because of a big drop in the number of customers visiting the bank’s physical branches each year as an increasing number of its customers take to the digital mode of transactions. The change in customer behaviour can be seen in the fact that the number of customers visiting the physical branches for transactions at RBS and Natwest branches has gone down 43 per cent since 2010, but the number of customers using online transactions and apps for meeting their requirements has gone hugely up by 400 per cent. This shift in the bank’s policy will result in 472 job risks but the effective figure comes to 362.
As the top bank cuts down on its branches in a big way, it will provide community bankers and TechXperts. The community experts will be serving the rural areas in particular which have difficulty in accessing the bank’s services. Initially, 50 community bankers will be introduced by the end of the year. They will assist the local community in distant areas to meet their banking requirements. On the technology front, there will be technology experts or TechXperts, who will assist customers in using banking technology. They will help customers learn digital banking technologies so that they are comfortable in using these technologies and are able to operate their bank accounts and do transactions without any difficulty.
As the bank says,
“As customers change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them,” an RBS spokesperson said. “The role of the branch is fast moving to a centre for advice, away from basic transactions. While the branch will still be a core part of our offering to customers, inevitably some branches will have to close.”
The bank has reported big losses in recent years and it is taking a number of measures. It reported a £7bn loss in its 2016 full-year results. As a result, the bank would be taking cost-effective measures in 2017 and cut its expenses by £750m and focus on the digital front of banking. It termed the policy “simplification and digital transformation”.
Meanwhile, the news on cutting on the number of staff members is also significant as it is the first time in recent times that the bank has decided to reduce the number of employees. It dropped 13,700 full-time equivalent employees between the end of 2015 and the end of 2016 from its payroll.