NatWest puts 550 branch jobs at risk

Move come days after TSB said almost 1,000 branch staff were at risk and a month after staff were told to work from home until 2021

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. 

Use of ATMS halved during the height of the Covid outbreak as customers shunned paper money, figures from cash machine network Link show.

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