Changing habits of customers cited as bank decides to close town branch

The St Ives branch of NatWest bank. Picture: GOOGLE

The St Ives branch of NatWest bank. Picture: GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

National Westminster is to close its branch in St Ives - leaving customers facing a 7.3 mile trek to Huntingdon if they want to visit their bank.

The bank said customers now had more ways of accessing banking services than ever before, including online banking, and that there had been a “dramatic” change in the way customers used the St Ives branch.

But Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, urged banks to “think outside the box” and come up with alternatives to branch closures which had an impact on the community.

National Westminster is closing the branch on June 25 next year and has told customers that it has brought in a range of improvements “making it more convenient” to their banking where and when they want.

A spokesman for the bank said the number of customers using its banks had dropped by 40 per cent since 2014 and at the same time there had been a rise of 41 per cent in online transactions, totalling 1.1 billion in the first half of this year.

At St Ives, transactions had fallen by 30 per cent since 2012, with only 60 customers a week visiting the branch and 65 per cent banking digitally.

The spokesman said customers had been given six months to consider their banking options: “We know that not all of our customers are comfortable or familiar with using online or mobile banking so we have created a new specialist taskforce of NatWest TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills until the branch closes.

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“The total number of staff who work in branch is one. Our branch staff work in different branches on a rotating basis. We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected. We will ensure compulsory redundancies are kept to an absolute minimum.”

Mr Lyons said: “It is not good news. The FSB says that bank closures have implications all round. I know a lot of people who go in to St Ives to do their banking.

“I think the banks need to get their act together a bit.”

Mr Lyons said that many people still preferred to do face-to-face banking: “The banks need to think outside the box. The Post Office was able to open counters in shops and businesses - why can’t the banks do the same?”