In a trend consistent with pandemic-related buyer habits, Natwest Group has seen more customers turn to online banking since the initial lockdown in March, which is forcing it to make 550 job cuts and the closure of an office. However, Natwest shared with the BBC that the cuts were not strictly resultant from the lockdown, but followed a years-long trend of decline in in-branch transactions. But a reduction in branch opening hours or total closure during lockdown saw more customer activity shift online, hurrying along the process.
There are plans to rehouse offices in Bishopsgate and on the Strand, following the closure of an office at Regents House. Natwest is not the only bank to make cuts in the wake of the pandemic, with Cyldesdale Bank, now Virgin Money, will lose 300 staff members in branch closures. Meanwhile, TSB announced that it will be reducing cashier jobs at the start of next year, after seeing a similar downward turn in branch activity, whilst HSBC is going ahead with the initiative to axe 35,000 jobs globally, after putting it on hold at the start of the pandemic.
Many customers are expected to default in the wake of the coronavirs pandemic and Natwest group has subsequently reserved between £3.5 to £4.5 billion to mitigate this aspect of the crisis. Before the pandemic, the bank was undergoing a £250m initiative to reduce costs, which it plans to continue, as a palliative for the potential loss of billions of pounds due to bad lending.
A spokesperson for the bank said, following the recent upward trend in online customer activity, that “we have to respond to changing customer behaviour and the rising customer demand for digital banking services.” With regards to the job cuts, they remarked that “we have taken the decision to invite applications for voluntary redundancy and will support those colleagues who apply with a comprehensive support package.”