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Review of bank services

Only two of ten RBS ‘review’ branches stay open

RBS branch on Barra

RBS Barra will remain open following the review


 

Royal Bank of Scotland will go ahead with the closure of eight of the ten branches whose future it agreed to review after public complaints.

Johnston Carmichael, the accountancy and business advisory firm, has confirmed that only branches in Biggar in South Lanarkshire and Castlebay on Barra will be saved among the rural outlets that it was asked to examine in June.

Branches in Comrie, Beauly, Douglas, Gretna, Inveraray, Kyle, Tongue and Melrose will shut. It means RBS will now shut 60 branches across Scotland following a decision taken in December last year.

The ten branches reviewed by Johnston Carmichael were selected because they were almost all the last branch in town and more than nine miles from the nearest alternative RBS branch.

The review team received more than 1,000 representations and spoke to a significant number of branch customers, bank staff, elected representatives, and groups representing a range of interests including those customers with disabilities and considered most vulnerable. 

Johnston Carmichael has suggested a number of important additional measures which could be taken by the ban to enhance the quality and accessibility of alternative banking facilities. 




Sandy Manson, chief executive of Johnston Carmichael, said: “We understand there will be considerable disappointment in those communities where we have recommended that a branch should close.

“However, in most cases where we have recommended that a branch close, we have also suggested additional steps which we believe the bank should take to enhance the quality and accessibility of the alternative banking facilities available.

“After careful consideration, Castlebay on Barra and Biggar are two branches that we have recommended should remain open due to the number of different reasons as set out in our report.

“One of the most important factors we considered in our review was the suitability of accessible alternatives to the services currently provided by the local branch. Each branch had its own unique set of circumstances and this meant that we had to carefully and sensitively consider each branch on a case-by-case basis.” 

Sandy MansonMr Manson, pictured, added: “Our main focus throughout this review was to determine the likely impact of a particular branch closure on the local community affected. That is why we spent a great deal of time consulting a wide range of interested parties. In particular we wanted to understand the potential impact of a branch closure on the vulnerable groups in the community.

We recognise the importance of local banking services being available to these communities, and we have therefore carefully set out our rationale for reaching each recommendation on a branch-by-branch basis. 

“We work in many rural communities across Scotland so we are acutely aware of the importance of the issues at stake in this review. Our team has been thorough and diligent in reviewing the merits of keeping a branch open and the likely impact of closing a branch. We used a comprehensive set of criteria in our assessment of each branch before reaching our conclusions.

“We would like to express our gratitude to those communities we visited during our review and for the many constructive contributions we received as part of the process.”

Union reacts with anger

Unite, the trade union, accused Johnston Carmichael of failing to properly consider the report by the Financial Conduct Authority, the finance sector regulator.

The union said the FCA had acknowledged that consumers in rural areas in the UK are far less likely to use their mobile phones for banking than customers in an urban environment.

In addition, a recent report by Which? has found Scotland has been the worst hit throughout the UK, by branch closures.

The union said alternatives such as mobile banking are “problematic for inconsistency of service and inaccessibility for more vulnerable customers. Businesses have also made it clear that they need access to local banking facilities in a timely manner.” 




Unite regional officer, Lyn Turner said: “This is obviously good news for RBS customers and communities in Castle Bay and Biggar.

“However, the Johnston Carmichael review was entirely predictable and nothing but a rubber-stamp of RBS management decisions. Sixty communities out of an original sixty-two earmarked for closure will now be marginalised by this so-called review. Unite will now request to meet RBS urgently to discuss the impact from today’s announcement on our members.” 

Unite will continue to press for a meeting with the Scottish Government Minister for Communities on the impact of the announcement.

Bank accepts recommendations

Simon Watson, managing director of personal banking at Royal Bank of Scotland, said:  “Johnston Carmichael has judged that there are exceptional circumstances in Biggar and Barra and has recommended that these branches remain open – so they will. We also note the further recommendations for enhancements that can be made in six of the branch locations and can confirm we will be accepting these recommendations in full. 

“The report highlights the difficult nature of branch closure decisions. We know branches are important to many communities, but equally we know that fewer and fewer people are using them as more people bank online.

“In every case of a branch closing we are committed to providing the best possible range of banking alternatives, including mobile branches, banking in the local post office, community bankers and remote services such as telephone banking. 

“With today’s report, we are able to say for the first time with certainty that there will be no further reviews of our branch network in the immediate future – until at least 2020.” 

RBS said it will continue to work with communities, customers, elected representatives and other stakeholders to ensure all customers understand the changes and the alternative ways to bank available to them.

Recommendations and RBS response for each branch:

Beauly – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Beauly branch
  • The Bank should consider consulting with the community council with regard to the mobile branch route, to see if an appropriate location can be added in the area
  • The Bank should ensure the mobile branch timetable accommodates the peak in demand over the summer months 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Beauly branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will review our mobile branch provision in Beauly to take on board the suggestions from Johnston Carmichael. While it is not possible to confirm changes to the timetable today, we will engage the Community Council in our plans and subject to the necessary permissions, amend the mobile branch route accordingly. 

 

 

Biggar – keep

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should keep Biggar branch open
  • Consider withdrawing the mobile branch and redeploying it where needed
  • Consider redeploying Community Banker resource to other communities where the resource is most needed
  • Customers would be more comfortable utilising the banking services at the Post Office if there was an opportunity for it to relocate to the bank building.

 

The Bank will keep Biggar branch open.

 

With today’s report, we are able to say for the first time with certainty that there will be no further reviews of our branch network in the immediate future – until at least 2020.

 

We note Johnston Carmichael’s suggestion and will consider how best to use the mobile branch and Community Banker resource elsewhere in our network.

 

We note Johnston Carmichael’s observation about the Post Office and future use of the building and will explore options available. 

Castlebay – keep

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should keep Castlebay branch open because we are concerned that the mobile branch may not be able to reliably get to the island in bad weather.
  • The Bank should consider withdrawing the mobile branch service and redeploying elsewhere where the need is greater

The bank will keep Castlebay branch open.

 

With today’s report, we are able to say for the first time with certainty that there will be no further reviews of our branch network in the immediate future – until at least 2020.

 

We note Johnston Carmichael’s suggestion and will consider how best to use the mobile branch resource elsewhere in our network.

 

Comrie – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Comrie branch
  • Consider increasing the mobile branch service, subject to demand
  • Retain external, free to use, 24 hour ATM

 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Comrie branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will review our mobile branch provision in Comrie to take on board the suggestions from Johnston Carmichael. While it is not possible to confirm changes to the timetable today, subject to the necessary permissions, we will amend the mobile branch route accordingly. 

  

We have already committed to try to retain our ATM in Comrie and will explore the options available to us to retain or replace the ATM at a suitable location.

Douglas – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Douglas branch 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Douglas branch at a date to be confirmed. 

Gretna – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Gretna branch
  • Mobile branch should be introduced

 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Gretna branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will review our mobile branch provision to take on board the suggestions from Johnston Carmichael. While it is not possible to confirm the timetable today, subject to the necessary permissions, we will amend the mobile branch route accordingly.   

Inveraray – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Inveraray branch
  • Retain external, free to use, 24 hour ATM in the town
  • Consider increasing the mobile branch service during summer months
  • Consider continuing discussions with larger businesses who may be best suited to using pre-arranged cash collections from their premises, rather than the mobile branch or Post Office

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Inveraray branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will explore the options available to us to retain or replace the ATM at a suitable location.

 

We will review our mobile branch provision in Inveraray to take on board the suggestions from Johnston Carmichael. While it is not possible to confirm changes to the timetable today, subject to the necessary permissions, we will amend the mobile branch route accordingly. 

 

While we have spoken to many business customers in Inveraray about their banking options, we will undertake further proactive engagement to ensure that businesses are able to access the most appropriate banking service for their needs.   

Kyle – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Kyle branch
  • Mobile branch was an example of best practice and suggest those best practices be replicated across the fleet
  • Consider continuing discussions with larger businesses who may be best suited to using pre-arranged cash collections from their premises, rather than the mobile branch or Post Office 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Kyle branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

While we have spoken to many business customers in Kyle about their banking options, we will undertake further proactive engagement to ensure that businesses are able to access the most appropriate banking service for their needs. 

 

Melrose – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Melrose branch
  • Retain external, free to use, 24 hour ATM in the town
  • The Bank should consider increasing the mobile branch service during summer months
  • The Bank should consider making a mobile branch available to attend the Melrose Sevens and Borders Book Festival
  • The Bank should consider changing the location of the mobile branch
  • Engage with the local community on mobile branch stops and timetable 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Melrose branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will explore the options available to us to retain or replace the ATM at a suitable location.

 

We will review our mobile branch provision in Melrose to take on board the suggestions from Johnston Carmichael. While it is not possible to confirm changes to the timetable today, subject to the necessary permissions, we will amend the mobile branch route accordingly. 

 

We will engage the organisers of these events and festivals to understand how we can best support vendors and customers who attend.

 

Tongue – close

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • The Bank should proceed with the closure of Tongue branch
  • Engage with local community on the location of the mobile branch
  • Work with Transport for Tongue to secure suitable accommodation

 

The Bank will proceed with the closure of Tongue branch at a date to be confirmed.

 

We will continue to engage and listen to the community to ensure our mobile branch is serving as many customers as possible.

 

We will work with Transport for Tongue to understand their requirements and explore the available options to provide alternative accommodation.

Additional Recommendations:

Alternative Ways to Bank

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • We encourage the Bank to continue trying to improve customer awareness of alternative ways to bank

 

We understand that for many customers, being aware of other ways of banking was not a priority while the branch remained open. Johnston Carmichael’s independent review now provides clarity for our customers about the future of their local branch and with this clarity, we will seek to reengage our customers and to proactively support them with alternative ways to bank.

 

We have dedicated staff who will be available to support customers on a one-to-one basis and our TechXperts, Community Bankers and Business Growth Enablers will be able to help customers to use any of the services available.

We will also reflect on what more can be done to further communicate the availability of these staff and the range of services available too.

Post Office

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • We would encourage the Bank to continue its work with the Post Office to increase customer confidence in, and awareness of, Post Office services so that the existing service can not only be better utilised, but enhancements can be made where required

 

We work closely with the Post Office and are currently working with Citizens Advice, UK Finance and the Post Office on a cross-industry initiative to increase awareness of banking services available at the Post Office.

 

We have dedicated staff who will be available to support customers on a one-to-one basis and our TechXperts, Community Bankers and Business Growth Enablers will be able to help customers to use banking services at the Post Office and to help make any necessary arrangements for customers to do so.

Mobile branch

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • We encourage the Bank to continue to prioritise maintenance checks for mobile branches
  • We would encourage the roll out of 4G across the entire fleet
  • We would also encourage the Bank to continue working with its coachbuilder to develop better access to mobile branches for the elderly or infirm who cannot access the mobile branch using steps
  • We suggest that in addition to that investment (MyHailo) the Bank continues to explore ways to improve the accessibility of mobile branches for all customers
  • The Bank needs to continue to engage with their customers to improve awareness of what can be done on a mobile bank
  • The Kyle of Lochalsh mobile branch was an example of best practice and suggest those best practices be replicated across the fleet 

 

Our mobile branch fleet undergoes regular maintenance and road-worthiness checks and we will continue to priorities these checks.

 

 We are working with BT to deliver Wi-Fi across 8 of our mobile branches in Scotland under a pilot scheme. We will use these locations to test this solution before looking at any further expansion.                                                 

We have engaged customers who already use our mobile branch service in Scotland and have already used this feedback to make a number of Improvements to our mobile branch service.

 

We have already improved the way in which customers can interact with us without entering the vehicle by using accessible exterior bells, braille signage and by installing the MyHailo system onto the fleet. MyHailo is a system used widely by petrol stations and enables customers to alert us more easily that they have arrived, where a member of our team will leave the van to serve them.

 

Our mobile branches are being enhanced with high visibility markings on steps and handrails, and we are currently gathering feedback from colleagues and customers on an awning system being trailed on two routes in Scotland, which provides shelter in inclement weather.

 

We take steps to ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place so that disabled customers are able to access our banking services, and we strive to ensure that our banking services are accessible to all of our customers.

We will continue to engage with our customers about all the ways they can bank, including what they can do on our mobile branches.

Community Bankers

Recommendation

Royal Bank response

  • We would encourage the Bank to ensure that their Community Bankers maintain a high profile in communities affected by branch closures

 

Our Community Bankers are encouraged to build relationships in their communities and to work with customers (and non-customers) through a number of channels including social media, at charity events, meeting social groups and other community activities.

 

We will reflect on Johnston Carmichael’s feedback and consider how we can support Community Bankers to raise awareness of their availability further.

 

 

 



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