Many of you contacted us regarding the announced closure of NatWest in Shepperton. The closure signals the end of the high street bank in the village. Is this what is called progress in today’s internet age?
Having a business in the high street is costly. Rents are high, business rates are increasing. Since 2010 mobile and online transactions have increased by over 400% and mobile transactions alone have increased by 1,350%. In contrast to this since 2011 the number of transactions in the NatWest Shepperton branch have declined by 32%. These customers are actively choosing to bank in different ways, with 60% of customers choosing to use digital banking options.
We are very sympathetic to the loss of the facility for the local community, particularly to some of the older and less mobile residents. We had a chat with area manager Simon Hanlon to find out what the thinking behind the closure was and to investigate some of the facts and provide you with some information which may be useful:
The branch always seems busy, so how can we say it was underutilised?
The branch is open for six hours a day and is closed on Saturday so of course it is going to seem busier when it is indeed open. The fact is however, 83% of local customers in Shepperton are already banking in other ways than visiting the branch.
Clients were ‘encouraged’ to change banks to NatWest once Barclays shut.
Naturally NatWest welcomed any client who wished to move to a different bank once Barclays shut, but there was no active pursuit of any new clients. In fact NatWest only gained around 100 customers from the closure of the branch in Shepperton. People don’t like changing banks, so many remained with Barclays and found other branches to use.
There is no other high street bank in Shepperton.
That is true, but NatWest in fact have a national agreement with the Post Office to provide customers with a range of banking services. Customers can pay money in, take money out, check balances and business customers can get coinage. There are four other NatWest branches within 4 miles of Shepperton: Staines, Weybridge and Walton are open 6 days a week and the Chertsey branch is open Monday to Friday. The Walton on Thames branch is less than 2 miles away.
What about the effect the closure will have on the many loyal customers?
Simon Hanlon told me that his team are communicating with customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers. They have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing the decision and the branch closure to six months.
This has been done in order to ensure customers have time to consider the right banking options for them. NatWest have created two new roles – a Community Banker – who will serve the local area and provide customers with personal assistance and support accessing the right banking options for their needs, as well as help with achieving their financial plans and goals.
They also know that not all customers are comfortable and familiar with using online or mobile banking, so they have created a new specialist taskforce of NatWest TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting customers with training and support with digital skills.
What is going to happen to the building?
This is rented so will return to the landlord. We will have to wait and see what happens to the premises.
The branch will be closing on October 10th.