Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has entered December with an unwelcome gift for its employees, announcing 680 jobs will be cut as it marks 259 branches for closure.
Blaming the rise of online banking, RBS said it would get rid of 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches and 197 Natwest branches.
It said it would seek to manage the 680 redundancies “on a voluntary basis”, and would write to customers in affected areas to “highlight the alternative ways to bank”.
“As customers continue to change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them,” said an RBS spokesperson.
“So we are investing in our more popular branches and shaping our network, replacing traditional bricks-and-mortar branches with alternative ways to bank including community bankers, mobile bank on wheels, and Post Offices, so that we can reach even more customers.”
The community bankers will be people who “get to know local communities” and provide customers with support to access RBS's non-cash services. They will also educate on issues such as fraud and scam protection.
RBS added it would also be creating a taskforce of “TechXperts” to support customers who were not familiar with online banking.
The bank plans to have 103 community bankers serving 250 areas in the UK by the end of March 2018, and said there is at least one TechXpert in every UK branch already.
However, Unite union said RBS had “betrayed” local communities. “The Royal Bank of Scotland has decided to decimate its bank branch network. Now serious questions need to be asked about whether these closures mark the end of branch network banking,” said Unite's Rob MacGregor.
The government still owns around 71 per cent of RBS after the taxpayer bailout at the height of the financial crisis. It wants to generate £15bn from selling its stake over the next five years, as its share price has finally begun to recover.