Campaigner’s concerns ahead of closure of NatWest Harpenden branch

PUBLISHED: 14:59 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:35 18 May 2018

A branch of Natwest. Picture: Danny Loo.

A branch of Natwest. Picture: Danny Loo.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Ahead of the closure of Harpenden’s branch of NatWest, a former banking campaigner has voiced his concerns about the way it was justified.

NatWest community banker for Harpenden Fax Siraj. Picture: Chris Close.NatWest community banker for Harpenden Fax Siraj. Picture: Chris Close.

Former national director of the Campaign for Community Banking Services Derek French has thrown doubt on the assertions of RBS, who own NatWest, that each week only 45 people use the branch, which will close on Tuesday, May 22.

He said: “This figure is based on transactional usage within the branch in 23 of 26 weeks of an unpublished survey period in 2017.

“Holidays, staying with relatives, going or being taken to another town for shopping are the sort of thing that would invalidate a customer’s inclusion in the data although they themselves would regard themselves as regular users.”

He argues that because the criteria was not included in the literature RBS has published about the closures, they have contravened the Access to Banking Standard, which it has signed up to.

A NatWest spokesperson said: “For the last six months colleagues have been engaging with our customers in Harpenden to ensure they are aware of all the alternative ways that they can bank with us.

“Customers can choose from a range of digital, face-to-face and local options. This includes the Post Office network. The closest Post Office is Harpenden, 0.04 miles away from the branch and there are three Post Offices within 3 miles of the branch. Customers can still also visit our St Albans branch which is 4.6 miles from the branch.

“The way people bank with us has changed radically over the last few years: since 2014, the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40 per cent.

“During the same period mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent; and in the first half of 2017, there were 1.1bn mobile and online transactions carried out by our customers: an increase 41 per cent since 2014. Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use NatWest Harpenden branch change dramatically, with now 89 per cent of customers already banking in other ways.

“Transactions in NatWest Harpenden branch have reduced by 46 per cent since 2012 with now only 45 regular customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis. 66 per cent of customers are now choosing to bank digitally with us on a regular basis instead”.

In place of the bank, NatWest has appointed a community banker, Fax Siraj, to work out of the county’s libraries in Harpenden, Hatfield and Ware to educate customers and advertise new products and services to them.

Fax said: “I’m excited to have the opportunity to develop a strong relationship with our customers in Harpenden, helping to ensure NatWest remains an important part of its many thriving communities.

“The impact of technological changes on the way people bank with us has been dramatic, but we’re also aware some people prefer a face-to-face channel for their banking.

“In my role as Community Banker, I’m looking forward to hosting regular events at local venues to help educate customers on being financially fit, training them on the different ways to bank in a digital world and how they can protect themselves from fraudsters.”

He has already met Harpenden Town Council to discuss his role and hosted an anti-scam event at Harpenden Public Halls earlier this month.

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