Bank bosses reject calls to consult public over branch closures

Bank bosses have rejected calls to consult with communities before taking the decision to close local branches.

A panel of banking executives told Holyrood’s economy committee that pre-consultation with customers was not a factor in the decision-making process.

MSPs have been examining the impact of bank closures in the wake of RBS’ decision to shut at least 52 branches across the country, with a further ten under review.

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SNP MSP Gillian Martin questioned the panel on whether they held any consultation with customers and communities before taking the decision to shut a branch.

Robin Bulloch, Managing Director of Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland. Picture: Scottish Government
Robin Bulloch, Managing Director of Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland. Picture: Scottish Government

Susan Allen, head of customer interactions at Santander UK, said: “We don’t do formal consultation with customers before any closures.

“We fully adhere to the access to banking standards as you would expect. The other thing we do take into account in making our decisions is representations from our own local teams.”

Robin Bulloch, managing director at Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland, said: “I would be concerned with a pre-consultation creating quite a high degree of uncertainty for customers and colleagues about the possible outcome.”

Simon Watson, managing director of personal banking at RBS, said: “There is no structured customer consultation... but we do look at what our customers actually do, where they bank and how they bank before we take any decision.

“On the issue of consultation... it is difficult to know where that would start and stop.”

Mr Watson was rebuked by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie for failing to provide information requested by the committee on the number of RBS bank branches now as compared to 2010.

She cited two examples – in Alexandria and Arrochar – where local communities had been left without facilities following an RBS closure.

Ms Baillie said: “You said that when a bank closes you wanted to leave something behind in the community. What did you leave behind in Alexandria?

“Given you talk about it wouldn’t be a closure and then nothing, it felt like a closure and then nothing in Arrochar.”

Mr Watson responded: “If we’ve fallen short on that occasion then I’m very sorry, I’m very happy to continue the discussion about Alexandria and the specifics.

“We always try to deliver on our promises and commitments and if we didn’t in that case then I’m very sorry.”