NatWest to axe 550 branch jobs and close Lon­don of­fice

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Lucy Bur­ton

NATWEST is cut­ting up to 550 jobs in bank branches and will close a ma­jor Lon­don of­fice as it grap­ples to adapt to the post-Covid world.

The tax­payer-backed bank has asked branch staff to ap­ply for vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy fol­low­ing dra­matic shifts in cus­tomer be­hav­iour dur­ing the cri­sis. Banks have been slash­ing branches for years as an in­creas­ing num­ber of cus­tomers go on­line, but coron­avirus has dra­mat­i­cally sped up the change after high street foot­fall slumps and con­sumers shunned cash to avoid spread­ing the disease.

The lender – which was pre­vi­ously called Royal Bank of Scot­land, and re­mains 62pc owned by the Trea­sury fol­low­ing a bailout 12 years ago – is also shut­ting one of its three key Lon­don of­fices, Re­gents House in An­gel. This site is used by around 2,500 staff who will work from else­where in fu­ture. It comes a month after NatWest told 50,000 em­ploy­ees to stay at home un­til at least next year.

MPs and economists have ar­gued that work­ers must go back to their of­fices to sup­port cafes, restau­rants, bars and shops that de­pend on their cus­tom, with fears grow­ing that the City of Lon­don faces a melt­down un­less nor­mal­ity re­turns.

But banks have been sur­prised by the suc­cess of home work­ing dur­ing lock­down, and NatWest’s de­ci­sion to close one of its Lon­don hubs sug­gests that re­mote op­er­a­tions are here to stay. At one point dur­ing lock­down, staff at NatWest had 40,000 vir­tual meet­ings in a sin­gle day.

The bank branch cuts emerged days after ri­val TSB de­cided to axe its cashiers, putting al­most 1,000 jobs at risk. TSB said that Covid-19 had trig­gered a ma­jor shift on­line.

NatWest spokes­men said the bank plans to re­con­fig­ure its re­main­ing Lon­don hubs at 250 Bish­ops­gate and 440 Strand to fit work­ers. There will be no com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies in branches.

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