Nationwide pledge to keep high street branches open

Nationwide pledge to keep high street branches open

June 21, 2023

Millions of frustrated bank customers had reason to cheer yesterday, after Nationwide Building Society promised to keep its remaining high street branches open until 2026.

The trend-bucking pledge, which sent shockwaves through the industry, will delight those who rely on face-to-face banking and breathe some new life into ailing high streets.

It also marks a victory for the Daily Express Save Our High Street Banks campaign, as branches disappear and shops close in the march towards digital-only services.

Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society, says in-person banking remained hugely popular. Its commitment will embarrass big-name rivals that argue the opposite.

Nationwide CEO, Debbie Crosbie, said: “Nationwide is different. We give customers a choice about how they do their banking and we support the British high street. Because our customers value face-to-face contact and we’re owned by them, we act in their interests.”

A survey of 2,000 people by the mutual showed two thirds of customers valued their local branch.Main reasons for visiting were withdrawing cash, checking balances, opening an account, getting financial advice and discussing difficulties.

A third wanted face-to-face contact amid the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation, but felt cast adrift by the swathe of closures.

Older people’s champion and Tory peer Ros Altmann, 67, who backs this newspaper’s campaign, said the brutal branch cull was the latest “lamentable” example of firms “riding roughshod over the interests and needs of loyal, long-standing customers”.

She added: “Instead of prioritising profit, companies should consider customer needs as a whole by reappraising further branch closures.” More than 5,000 branches have vanished since 2015, sparking fears that traditional banking will be a thing of the past by 2027.

Just 5,154 high street banks are now left in the UK, down from 9,807 in 2015. Baroness Altmann said: “Of course fewer people visit their branch. But that does not mean firms should feel entitled to exclude older customers who cannot manage the lower-cost, higher-profit ways of working which best suit the banks. This could even amount to age discrimination.”

Between them, Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, NatWest, RBS, TSB, Virgin Money and Nationwide have announced the closure of around 330 branches since the start of the year, according to cash machine firm Link.

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