TSB is no longer the bank that likes to say yes

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Badge of shame: what the famous TSB slogan now looks like

TSB once boasted of being “the bank that likes to say yes” – but now it is throwing a raspberry rude “no” to customers who want to be served at its branch counters. The bank began rolling down the shutters at 14 of its main street counters at two in the afternoon.

Customers arriving after this time will be asked to take what is surprisingly titled a “digital skills” lesson rather than getting the counter service they came for.

In other words, they will be encouraged to do online banking.

Banking expert Derek French called the move “cynical”. Last week, the former bank manager and founder of the Campaign for Community Banking, told The Mail on Sunday: “Limiting counter opening hours is a back door to reduce the importance of a branch. “

By removing teller services at some branches, French believes TSB is considering reducing branch footfall, giving it an excuse at some point in the near future to continue and close them. He said, “The ripple effect will be fewer customers and a stronger rationale for branch closures. “

Last month, the Financial Conduct Authority told banks they would have to justify future branch closures for economic reasons.

However, French warned: “Despite all the regulator’s postures, I fear a sharp increase in bank closings in the coming months. “

The Mail on Sunday has long campaigned for every city in the country to have access to free money – and the government has promised to legislate to make it happen.

The withdrawal of afternoon personal banking services at the TSB’s 14 branches follows its decision to tear down 82 branches this year, a step that will leave it with just 454.

This is part of a disturbing trend. In the past six years, a third of all bank branches have closed, with ATMs being phased out at the rate of 500 per month.

Today, some banks cite the Covid-19 crisis as they speed up closure programs and reduce their opening hours.

Last week, Co-op Bank announced that it would close 18 of its 68 branches this year due to “economic uncertainty” caused by the coronavirus.

NatWest is cutting 550 branch jobs, while Barclays and HSBC are cutting 59 and 28, respectively. Lloyds has suspended plans to cut 56 branches due to the pandemic.

Banks that have reduced branch opening hours include Santander, which cut its hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – some of its 565 branches closing at 2 p.m.

Only a third of the 621 HSBC branches are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. while others close at 2 p.m. Most of NatWest’s 960 branches are only open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., while Lloyds Banking Group – including Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland – has limited branch opening hours generally between 9:00 a.m. 30 and 3:30 p.m.

Test of time: The Old Corn Exchange in which the Bishop's Stortford branch is located was built in 1828, 18 years after the founding of the Trustee Savings Bank

Test of time: The Old Corn Exchange in which the Bishop’s Stortford branch is located was built in 1828, 18 years after the founding of the Trustee Savings Bank

Despite numerous requests from the Mail on Sunday, the TSB declined to share details of the location of the 14 branches targeted for reduced counter services – claiming only that they are “scattered across the country.” But if the move proves successful, it could be rolled out across the network. The BST branch in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, is among those likely to be affected.

The Old Corn Exchange in which the branch is located was built in 1828 – 18 years after the founding of the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) whose purpose was to support the poorest parishioners. A far cry, some would say, from the ruthless money-making company it has become – raking in pre-tax profits of £ 46m last year for its Spanish owner Sabadell.

Walk into the branch and you wonder what it has to offer customers. There’s a large lobby with three seating areas, but no cash machine in sight – apparently, as a listed building, it can’t have one. At the far end is a single open counter that looks more like a reception desk for a posh hotel when I approach the clear plastic screen.

It’s 11am, so I’m fine in working hours, but when I tell Michelle, the agency manager, that I’m a journalist, she’s perfectly polite but clearly wants me out.

The only refresher training I receive is on how to calmly leave the branch. I am escorted out of the building.

Customers are much happier to share their thoughts on TSB’s depersonalization of its branches. In short, they are appalled. Joan Deex, a retired medical visitor, says: “I joined TSB a few years ago after staff at my old bank, Barclays, told me it was time to bank. online. It wasn’t what I wanted, so I moved to the TSB.

“What happened to this once caring BST who liked to say yes?” She asks, adding, “Well, it’ll get a big no from customers like me if it starts pushing this ridiculous idea of ​​’digital competence’.” “

Friendly face: Student Karina Mann enjoys being able to visit a bank on Main Street so she can talk to staff about overdrafts

Friendly face: Student Karina Mann enjoys being able to visit a bank on Main Street so she can talk to staff about overdrafts

Joan, visiting the branch with her husband Len, 80, a retired science teacher, believes the bank is unable to teach customers how to use the internet. Two years ago, shortly after Joan joined, she was billed for £ 330million after an IT collapse left 1.9million customers locked out of their accounts for several weeks.

Luis Pinto, who shows up at the branch to cancel a direct debit in person – he didn’t think it would be done online – is not impressed with TSB’s digital decision. The 50-year-old former cafe owner said, “If I wanted to use the internet I would – and I certainly don’t need someone telling me how to do it. No one is fooled by the banks that lead people online. It’s about saving money, not what customers want.

Karina Mann and Gracie Leader, both 20, admit they do almost all of their banking online. But as university students, they are well aware of times when a street branch can prove to be vital for them.

Karina says: “There are times when I have to go to a branch and talk face to face with a staff member – like when I have to extend my overdraft. Once a bank closes it will never reopen and we – the community – are all losers.

TSB told The Mail on Sunday that its digital skills building initiative was designed to help customers “get the most out of online banking.” He said that if a customer really wanted to use counter service after 2pm, he would “try to find ways” to make sure it could be served. He has remained tight-lipped on how this could be done.

A BANK THAT ALWAYS MAKES FRIENDS

Metro Bank, the only one to have extended its branch network in recent years, has launched a “sponsorship” offer to encourage customers to get family and friends to open an account with the bank.

Customers will receive £ 50 each time they convince a family member or friend to open a bank account with Metro.

As part of the offer, the new customer will also receive £ 50. The deal is valid until mid-December and the maximum customers can receive if they make multiple referrals is £ 250.

There are other conditions. In order for both existing and new customer to get the bonus, at least £ 500 per month must be deposited into the newly opened account during the first two months. During this period, at least ten purchases must be made on a Metro Bank debit card.

Once they sign up for the offer, existing customers will receive a code that they can then share with friends and family to identify them as the person making the recommendation.

Other banks have offered similar programs in the past, including the Nationwide Building Society, although it “suspended” its offering in April citing the coronavirus crisis.

Since its launch ten years ago, Metro has expanded its network to 77 branches. Although most are in the south of England, it opened branches this year in Liverpool, Sheffield and Cardiff.

From next month, almost all of its branches will be open seven days a week – as they were before the lockdown.

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