‘Difficult decision’ to shut NatWest Downend branch

March 02 2015

DOWNEND village centre is losing a second major bank this month with the closure of the NatWest branch.

DOWNEND village centre is losing a second major bank this month with the closure of the NatWest branch.

This follows the shutting of the Co-op bank in December and has led to concerns over how elderly customers will cope.

A NatWest spokeswoman said it had been a difficult decision to shut the Downend branch, but was necessary because of the big move to internet and mobile banking in recent years.

The next nearst NatWest branches are in Fishponds, 1.4 miles away, and Kingswood, 2.1 miles away.

“We do understand that some of our customers do not use the internet or mobile phone app and prefer to be served over the counter. As a result we have come to an agreement with the local Post Office, so that customers can withdraw cash, check balances, and make deposits free of charge. Our local business customers are now also able to get coinage,” the spokeswoman said.

She explained that there had been a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2010 and the trend was expected to continue. Mobile and internet banking has already risen by 200 per cent.

This has led to the closure of NatWest branches in Redfield, Clifton, Henleaze, Wotton-under-Edge and Yatton over recent months and Downend will follow on March 19.

However, she said the branch network was important to NatWest, which was upgrading 400 branches, fitting them out with new technology, and installing 100 new cash dispensing machines and deposit machines.

Eighty per cent of our customers are within a three mile radius of a branch, and when you include the Post Office network that rises to 90 per cent of our customers being within one mile of a place where they can carry out their everyday banking, she said.”

“Overall, we are investing over £1bn over the next few years to give customers greater choice in how they bank with us.

“We’ve advised staff and are writing to our customers to make them aware of the closure and the different ways they can still bank with us. If customers or local businesses are concerned about how this will impact their banking, they can go into the branch where staff will be happy to discuss the alternative ways to bank with us.”

Downend & Bromley Heath parish councillor Martyn Poole said he was worried that older people would be in difficulties because of the bank closure.

“Many of them have been with the same bank for a long time and it is not always easy to change banks,” he said.

“A lot of elderly people are not willing or able to use internet banking – they don't trust it. They want to carry on using cash and cheques.”