Please see below my letter to Alison Rose, Chief Executive at NatWest:
Dear Ms Rose
Some of my constituents have expressed concerns about the closure of the Wokingham branch of NatWest.
The closure will disproportionately affect older customers who do not use online banking and who do not have access to transport to Bracknell.
While telephone services may be a suitable option for some there is the matter of long waits before speaking to a customer service representative.
Customers who are visually or hearing impaired will also be impacted by the closure of the Wokingham branch.
I should be grateful for your comments which I can forward to my constituents.
Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP, DPhil FCSI
November 9, 2022
Thank you for your concern.
November 9, 2022
If I were responding to this letter, it would be along the following lines:
Dear Sir John,
Thank you for your letter, written on behalf of your constituents. I know you, like me, are very busy, so I will keep my answer brief and to the point.
A bank branch is usually closed for one of the following reasons:
1. It doesn’t make enough money to cover operating costs
2. The lease has run out and the cost of renewal is too high or the freeholder wants them out for redevelopment.
3. The branch has been raided too many times.
In the case of Wockingham, answer one is apposite. Sadly, the good people of that town have chosen to take their profitable business elsewhere, leaving the branch unviable from a business perspective.
As a Conservative, why would you wish to force a private business to operate a unit at a loss? Banks are not a branch of social services, despite what many think. If any Government of the day feels the need for a physical bank presence in a particular town or area, surely it is within its gift to provide a subsidy, perhaps using some of the banking levy or windfall taxes that it charges. Most day-to-day banking services can now be performed at the local Post Office, such as withdrawing and paying in cash, negating the need for every bank to be represented. The one in Wokingham is open seven days a week. For the majority of our customers, telephone and internet banking is simple to use and convenient. It is a fact of life that those unable or unwilling to move with the times and embrace new technologies and practices will be left behind, both in the workplace, in business and at home.
The banking industry must adapt to the changing environment or wither away in the face of online competition that doesn’t have the huge fixed costs of a bricks and mortar bank such as Nat West. We could move over to the model used in most of the world and remove free banking, introduced as a desperate measure by the then failing Midland Bank to increase its customer base. As I recall. the BoE had to step in and arrange for it to be taken over by HSBC. However, I do not think the British public would be at all happy at paying a monthly fee to access their money.
I appreciate your reaching out to me, I really do. Just as it is your duty to look after and protect your constituents, I must do the same for my employees and shareholders. Much as we would like to sometimes turn back the tide of progress, like a King Canute on the shoreline, we must all face the sometimes harsh realities of life in twenty first century Britain.
November 12, 2022
One day perhaps you will get old, and less “with it”, online banking may be great for those who are familiar with it, but for many who are not familiar with smartphones or computers, it is a real concern, especially when the personal customer service that used to be in place is then removed.
Perfectly understand if a branch is not making money then it has to close, same as any other business, but then expect your customers to go elsewhere as a result.
Had an interesting discussion with a Director of one of the big four Banks only a short time ago, when their over the counter and cashier service was removed recently.
If all personal customer service is removed, then the only way for Banks to compete, is on interest rates, which in effect is a race to the bottom (amazingly they had not thought of that)
Likewise with online fraud growing, and the Banks now being made more responsible for personal losses, their costs will also increase (amazingly they had not thought of that either)
Clearly you have never waited on the phone for hours in frustration in trying to sort out a simple problem, which could usually have been resolved in minutes with a quick visit to the local branch.
Fully aware that things change as time moves on, but to withdraw most of what are deemed customer services will lead them to be in direct competition with the “On Line” Banks with which they currently cannot compete (on costs)
They can look forward to a race to the bottom, and it may happen sooner rather than later. !
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