Closure of NatWest branches in Harpenden “is probably a mistake”, expert says

The NatWest branch in Harpenden. Photo: Google.

The NatWest branch in Harpenden. Photo: Google. - Credit: Archant

A Harpenden resident and ex-banking campaigner has said closing the town’s NatWest branch could inconvenience small businesses and actually harm the company.

But with several other banks in close proximity to NatWest, Derek French doubts many people will lose out by its closure.

A former national director for the Campaign for Community Banking Services, Mr French said: “Our usual take was when the bank closes it harms individuals and communities.

“Whereas the only group to be harmed by this is NatWest, rather than the other way around.

“To withdraw from such an affluent town like Harpenden, which contains many influential people, is probably a mistake.”

The High Street branch will close on Tuesday, May 22.

NatWest customer and Harpenden Society committee member Ron Taylor says he mainly uses online banking services now.

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He said: “I suspect anyone from 18 to 45 will say ‘so what?’ because a lot of people that age do lots of their dealings online.

“People over that age will be outraged and shocked.”

A leaflet issued by NatWest says customers can access banking services at Kinsbourne Green and Redbourn post offices, as well as the Harpenden facility in WH Smith.

But it does not list Southdown post office, which has current account services and is almost a mile closer than Kinsbourne Green.

Mr French has questioned how RBS, who own NatWest, calculated just 45 customers use the Harpenden branch in a week, as published in a previous article.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami wrote to RBS chief executive Ross McEwan and said: “I understand the pressures on retail banking and the shift towards banking online.

“However, this decision troubles me because of the number of thriving small and medium-sized businesses based here. SMEs continue to rely on banking in branch.”

A NatWest spokesperson said the figure of 45 customers per week is calculated from the number of ‘active’ customers, not necessarily the number of people with an account.

They highlighted how they gave customers six months’ notice of the closure, rather than the customary three, and said the leaflet listed post offices which provide the widest range of banking services.