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December 1, 2017

Axe swings for jobs & branches as RBS, Natwest go digital

Increasing digital banking leads to the closure of branches across the UK - will the robots really take over?

By April Slattery

Following a review, RBS has announced the closure of over 250 bank branches across the UK as they switch to digital processes.

Both RBS and NatWest will close 259 branches between them, leaving almost 700 people out of work.

Mobile and online banking is seemingly the cause of the closures as the number of transactions carried out on mobile devices have increased by over 70%, whilst customers using branches has decreased.

An RBS spokesperson said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile. Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period. Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.”

The fast-paced technology industry is taking the world by storm, but some bank users may get left behind leaving concerns over how they will bank going forward. To overcome this RBS has created a specialist taskforce of ‘TeXperts’ who will provide dedicated support to customers and offer training with digital skills.

Oracle

RBS has warned customers not to panic as the closures will not take place for another six months, leaving the banks and their customer’s time to plan for the future, get equipped with digital banking and choose the right options for them.

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“We are committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing quality banking services. We are writing to customers of affected branches to highlight the alternative ways to bank in their area,” RBS said.

Alternative ways of banking will be provided including online and mobile for basic transactions, and telephony and WebChat for assisted help. Customers who prefer face to face interaction can visit their local post office.

The announcement comes just weeks after the two banks launched their Rob-adviser service that assists customers with basic transactions and advises them on investment ideas.

Furthermore, digital lead Adam Shardlow from RBS said the bank has recently joined forces with IBM AI capabilities, using Watson to create a ChatBot for further banking help called Cora.

Cora is designed to create a single channel for all customers to go through even within live channels such as in-branch. In the first phase the new ChatBot operates by capturing data from across various parts of the bank to understand what customers want.

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The second phase of Cora brings help and support to move questions from frontline teams to the ChatBot, assisting with queries around a customer’s bank balance or transactions they have made.

Shardlow said: “We see it as a need to use digital banking because business is changing into open banking and GDPR is coming next year, leaving customers wanting to interact at a much more micro level than ever before. Customers want immediate access and Cora allows us to do that.”

Digital technology is having an impact in every industry around the world, with robotics seemingly taking over more than expected in short amount of time but bringing more efficient and accessible services to customers.

RBS said the redundancy process across branches will be carried out through a voluntary basis.

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