Royal Bank of Scotland announced today that its busiest branches will be open for business on next week’s bank holiday, breaking a tradition that dates back more than a century.
The taxpayer-backed lender, which owns the NatWest brand, said 34 branches will be taking part in the trial, which could be extended if it proves successful.
At a time where many people are thinking about buying a house, we’re breaking with tradition and opening our busiest branches where our customers need usJane Howard
Three RBS branches in Scotland – on Aberdeen’s Union Street, at the west end of Princes Street in Edinburgh and on Gordon Street in Glasgow – will be throwing open their doors on Monday 4 May, along with 31 south of the Border.
It is understand that staff will be able to volunteer for duty and a spokeswoman said they will be paid overtime for giving up their holiday.
The move comes a year after RBS unveiled plans to close 44 branches across the UK as the rising popularity of online and mobile banking contributed to a 36 per cent fall in branch transactions since 2010.
Chairman Sir Philip Hampton, who is due to hand over the reins to former Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies in September, told shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting in June that further closures were “inevitable”.
On a typical Monday, RBS and NatWest see about two million log-ins to their mobile banking apps, with online and mobile transactions rising by more than 300 per cent since 2010.
However, RBS and NatWest have pledged to invest £450 million in the refurbishment of more than 400 branches over the coming years.
The group said that extra mortgage advisers will be on hand over the bank holiday to help customers who cannot attend appointments during the working week, while a NatWest branch that is due to open at London’s Canary Wharf Crossrail development will become its first to open permanently on bank holidays.
Jane Howard, managing director of branch and private banking for RBS and NatWest, said: “Customer behaviour is changing and as we work hard to become number one for customer service, trust and advocacy in the UK, we are continually looking at ways to adapt and improve service for our customers.”
She added: “Many of our customers have busy lives but are off work on a bank holiday. At a time where many people are thinking about buying a house, we’re breaking with tradition and opening our busiest branches where our customers need us.”
The concept of bank branches closing on specified days was introduced in the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which designated New Year’s Day, Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August and Christmas Day as holidays in Scotland.
The act was championed by Liberal Party member Sir John Lubbock, who was also a partner in Robarts, Lubbock & Co – his family’s banking firm that went on to become part of Coutts & Co, the private bank now owned by RBS.
After a century on the statute books, the act was repealed but its provisions were incorporated into the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971. This legislation, which remains the statutory basis for bank holidays, designated Boxing Day, 2 January and the last Monday in May as additional Scottish holidays.
A spokesman for Glasgow-based Clydesdale Bank, which last year announced the closure of 16 sites in Scotland, said: “We’ve no plans to open branches on bank holidays, but we would never say never.”