Future of local bank branches in doubt as customer habits evolve

The Bonnybridge branch of RBS closed earlier this year
The Bonnybridge branch of RBS closed earlier this year

RBS has announced it will close its Denny branch on Saturdays in a further blow to traditional banking services in the Falkirk district.

The news comes just two months after the Royal Bank moved out of Bonnybridge for good.

The company has stressed that its Denny branch will remain open from Monday-Friday, and that all decisions on opening hours are based on customer demand.

But there are fears that, as more and more people switch to using online services, those that are not comfortable using digital devices – or prefer to do deal with their financial business face-to-face – will have to travel increasing distances as most major banks continue to cut the numbers of outlets.

A report from the University of Nottingham last year found that communities across the UK have lost more than 40 per cent of their bank and building society branches since 1988. with nearly 750 shutting.

Researchers also found that the rate of bank closures tended to be highest in areas formerly associated with “traditional manufacturing” when compared to more affluent suburbs and small towns.

The industry maintains that fewer branches are needed as more people have switched to online or telephone banking.

RBS said its branch transactions have declined by around 30 per cent while the use of online and mobile services had grown by 23 per cent since 2011.

It added that it remained committed to its branch network and had spent £130 million in the last three years to refurbish 680 outlets. An agreement is also in place with the Post Office where RBS customers can use it to withdraw cash, check balances and make deposits.

Baillie Billy Buchanan, who campaigned against the closure of the Bonnybridge branch, said that many people still valued having a personal relationship with their bank.

“The issue is that people build a rapport with staff in their local branch and learn to trust them,” he said. “It’s something that takes years to build up.

“If I was living in Denny I would be concerned about the long-term future of the RBS branch following this announcement.

“We do not want a situation where people are left with no alternative but to travel to Falkirk.”

The Falkirk Herald understands that early discussions have taken place between the area’s councillors and an, as yet, unnamed bank to establish a new branch in Bonnybridge.

Meanwhile, a major Scottish bank has announced that is reviewing potential sites as it plans to open up to 30 new branches as part of a £250 million investment.

TSB said it believed that they remained “a cornerstone of British banking”

A spokeswoman said: “Data shows people want to visit branches when they have important financial decisions to make – almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) bank accounts and over four in five (85 per cent) of mortgage applications take place face-to-face.

“This clearly shows when life’s big decisions are concerned, such as buying a new home, nothing beats the personal touch.”

The bank would not confirm or deny that new branches were being planned in the Falkirk district.

TSB was relaunched last year after Lloyds Banking Group was forced to sell a portion of its business following a European Commission ruling.