NatWest bank closures announced after ‘radical’ change to online banking

James Heappey shared his frustration over the recent bank closures.

James Heappey shared his frustration over the recent bank closures. - Credit: Archant

NatWest has announced plans to close three banks in North Somerset and Sedgemoor, just months after rival HSBC closed a number of its branches.

The company is set to close a number of its Somerset banks – including those in Burnham-on-Sea, Worle and Cheddar – and it says online banking is to blame.

NatWest’s media relations manager Sean Palmer said it was the ‘radical’ change to online banking which has prompted the closure of 158 of its branches around the UK.

Mr Palmer said mobile and online banking had increased by more than 400 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

He added: “We are communicating with our customers affected by the closures and are proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers.

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“We know not all of our customers are comfortable and familiar with using online or mobile banking, so we have created a new specialist taskforce of TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills.”

MP James Heappey accused NatWest of ‘failing to recognise’ the importance of local branches.

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He added: “There are many areas served by the branches in Burnham and Cheddar where broadband connections are poor and online banking less attractive than it is to those with better connections elsewhere.

“There is a large elderly community in both places, among who, the remaining branch users will be disproportionately concentrated.

“Digital exclusion is becoming a real challenge as it affects the elderly and vulnerable the most.

“NatWest had an advertising campaign not too long ago about the strength of its branch network. I am disappointed they have abandoned that position and I hope their customers in the area will now abandon them.”

Burnham and Highbridge town councillor Phil Harvey said: “It will be a great loss to Burnham. It will be the elderly population who will be most affected. This is going to be another gap in our high street.

“Online banking is not as secure as walking into a branch. People will be nervous about having to use it as we move forward.”

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