Monday, March 17, 2014

Royal Bank's response over Perth Road Branch closure criticised

Royal Bank of Scotland Perth Road Branch
I have today slammed what I consider to be a ‘wholly unsatisfactory and complacent response’ from Royal Bank of Scotland to my request that it reconsider its decision to close the Dundee Perth Road Branch on 26th June.

I had written to the bank pointing out that the Perth Road Branch remains a popular branch in a busy shopping centre.   

I pointed out that when the bank closed the student branch on the University of Dundee Campus in Balfour Street in 2012, it committed to maintaining “a presence in the local area” at Perth Road, something it has now conveniently forgotten.   Similar excuses were made when the bank previously closed branches in Lochee High Street and at Ninewells Hospital.

The bank is always quick to point out that customers can use online, telephone and Smartphone banking services but many customers continue to want personal banking at their local branch and its now the case that the Royal Bank, with its fourth branch closure in or around the West End in recent years, it has effectively withdrawn all local branch services to local people.

In response to my request to review the closure decision, Les Matheson, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer for Personal and Business Banking said, 
“We keep our branch network under review to ensure that we are serving our customers effectively.    We aim to be there for our customers where and when they need us.    The number of customers using the Perth Road Branch has been dropping since 2011, as more people use alternative ways of banking with us.   As a result, we have decided to close the branch on 26 June 2014.
Across our whole branch network there has been a 30% drop in branch transactions since 2010.   Conversely, an increasing number of customers are using our telephone and online banking services and our mobile banking app.    We also have an arrangement with the Post Office, which allows customers to withdraw cash, check balances or pay bills free of charge.    When the Perth Road Branch closes our ATM will remain in place, and there is a Post Office within 100 meters.    These alternative options will help to ensure that our customers still have access to services locally. 
We will be investing £700m across the UK over the next three years to improve the way we serve our customers.   Where appropriate this will include branch refurbishments and further investment in digital banking and our ATM network.   As an example, we are also investing heavily in the town centre Dundee Chief Office branch to make it easier to use for all customers in the area.”
It is clear that the Royal Bank’s closure plan is not in the interests of its customers.     The bank is closing branches, yet recently announced plans to pay £588m in bonuses despite suffering an £8.24bn loss in 2013 as it slumped into the red for the sixth successive year.   It seems to forget that the public bailed out the bank when it got into difficulties in 2008/9 but the public interest is far from the bank management’s minds as they continue to close vital local branches.  

The bank really does need to recognise that branches like Perth Road are vital to local communities and should be retained.