Nationwide extends pledge to protect branches until 2024 as rival lenders cut opening hours
Nationwide has extended its pledge to protect branches in cities and towns until 2024.
The promise to keep its doors open for an extra year – first revealed by the Mail on Sunday – comes as other high street lenders cut opening hours and axe branches by the hundreds.
But as customers grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, it said it would maintain its 625 branches to provide struggling members with face-to-face advice.
Open doors: Nationwide, led by chief exec Debbie Crosbie (pictured) said it would maintain its 625 branches to provide struggling members with face-to-face advice
Nationwide, whose status as a building society means it is owned by its customers rather than profit-hungry investors, yesterday saw Debbie Crosbie take over as the first female chief executive in its 175-year history.
Customers were wondering whether she would maintain its pledge to keep the branch network open beyond next January, when the current promise is due to expire.
In her former job as boss of TSB, Crosbie closed hundreds of bank branches. But yesterday, Nationwide said it would extend its pledge until at least 2024, allaying fears of its 16.3million members that its name may start to disappear from the high street.
Through its promise, Nationwide states that it will not leave any town or city in which it is based without a branch.
It admits that there are some circumstances in which it may be impossible to keep a branch open if there is more than one in the same town or city.
But Crosbie said: ‘Supporting members through the cost-of-living crisis is my immediate priority.
‘That’s why I’ve decided to extend our promise to keep branches on the high street.
‘As a mutual, all profit we generate is reinvested for the benefit of our members.
This gives us choices about how we best meet their needs. By extending the branch promise, members who face financial difficulties can discuss the practical support we offer in person with specially trained colleagues.’
Banks are expected to close around another 500 branches this year, to cut costs and boost returns to investors.
Since January 2015, more than 4,976 locations have shut according to consumer champion Which?. Barclays has axed the most, at 841.
Lenders have blamed ‘declining branch use’ as customers move online. But critics worry that by cutting physical locations, banks leave the vulnerable or those who prefer to talk to an adviser face-to-face with no port of call.
Under Crosbie’s leadership, TSB, which is owned by Spanish bank Sabadell, closed 244 branches during the pandemic.
Another 70 are on the block this year, meaning more than 300 will have shut in three years.
But Crosbie’s commitment for another year is likely to put her in members’ good books as she starts her role.
She said: ‘This is the first in a number of initiatives that Nationwide will launch for members in the months ahead.’