Virgin Money has announced it will close 31 branches – almost all in Scotland and the north of England – in the latest stage of the UK banking sector’s retreat from the high street.
The bank said it expected to make 112 jobs redundant because of the closures after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the shift to online and mobile app-based banking, a move that has rapidly reduced the profitability of physical bank branches.
Since the start of the pandemic HSBC, TSB and the Co-operative Bank have all closed branches, raising concerns about access to cash during lockdowns from the Financial Conduct Authority and consumer groups.
The latest closures represent almost a fifth of Virgin Money’s branches, meaning the bank will have only 131 left, down from 245 when it merged with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank in 2018.
Twelve of 55 branches will close in Scotland, while nine of 35 will close in Yorkshire, with the rest scattered across the north-east, north-west and the Midlands. No branches will close south of Nuneaton in Warwickshire.
The concentration of branch closures in Scotland and northern England reflects Virgin Money’s roots in Clydesdale and Yorkshire as well as the former Northern Rock, whose branches Virgin took over in 2011. Northern Rock was nationalised in 2007 after a run on the bank as people rushed to withdraw their money at the start of the financial crisis.
Bank branch closures tend to be controversial because of the needs of generally older customers who are not able to manage their finances online.
However, Virgin Money argued that customers who previously relied on the branches will be able to use post offices for day‐to-day banking, including cash deposits and withdrawals, cheque deposits and balance inquiries, as well as coin exchange.
It said 28 of the 30 customer branches closing were located less than a third of a mile away from the nearest post office.
Fergus Murphy, Virgin Money’s group customer experience director, said: “As our customers change the way they want to bank with us and conduct fewer transactions in-store, we must continue to evolve the role of our stores into places where we showcase our products and bring our digital services to life.”
The bank said it intended to find alternative roles for some affected staff, either in nearby branches or other group functions.
The latest branches closures
- Newcastle, Northumberland St
- Leeds, Horsforth
- Leeds, White Rose
- Broughty Ferry
- Sheffield, Meadowhall
- East Kilbride, Princes Square
- Gosforth (a branch for employees only, located in an office)
Source: The Guardian