Natwest to cut 550 jobs in branches and close one office

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Natwest is cutting 550 jobs in branches across the UK and closing one of its remaining offices in London.

It said the cuts would be made entirely through voluntary redundancies and there would be no branch closures.

The job losses are part of a cost-cutting drive as the lender tries to adapt to more people banking online.

The trend has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic as people have stayed away from high streets and used physical branches less.

A NatWest spokesperson said: “We have to respond to changing customer behaviour and the rising customer demand for digital banking services.

“We have taken the decision to invite applications for voluntary redundancy and will support those colleagues who apply with a comprehensive support package.”

The banking group, which is part of Natwest group, formerly known as RBS, said the cuts had been on the cards before the pandemic as it had seen a steady decline in branch transactions in recent years.

It has also been trying to achieve £250m of cost savings to make itself more competitive.

However, Covid-19 has accelerated the shift away from people banking in branches, putting pressure on already struggling lenders.

Before lockdown restrictions were eased, many branches reduced their opening hours, while some shut temporarily due to staffing issues.

Branch woes

Like other lenders, Natwest group has also been pressing ahead with cost-cutting in anticipation of people defaulting on loans due to the pandemic.

The group said in July that it expected to set aside between £3.5bn and £4.5bn for the whole of 2020 to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Other lenders have been scaling back as they try to adapt to the shift to online banking.

Earlier this year, Lloyds Banking Group announced 56 further branch closures, blaming “changing customer behaviour”. In 2019, rival TSB identified 82 branches it planned to close.

According to Which?, at least 3,383 bank branches closed in the five years to January 2020, shrinking the network by 34%.