Some questions for the Nationwide – and some answers

Ten days ago the Nationwide Building Society announced it was closing its Wanstead High Street branch, even though it had promised there would be no branch closures before 2023. We sent these questions to the Nationwide – their answers are below.

Dear Nationwide Building Society

We note with sadness your announcement that you are closing your branch in Wanstead High Street in August 2021. While we understand that fewer people use branches now, we do nevertheless have some questions for you.

  1. How do you reconcile your decision to close Wanstead branch with your promise that no branches would be closed before January 2023? On the face of it, your decision makes your promise entirely worthless.
  2. In your announcement, you say that 13% of the customers of your Wanstead branch use only that branch. You also say that 28% of Wanstead branch customers do not use online banking. This means there is a proportion of your customers who clearly rely completely on your branch for their banking – it is likely these are older people or people who do not have access to internet banking. Is the only option for them really to get the bus to Walthamstow, Ilford or South Woodford?
  3. Nationwide Building Society announced recently that your profits had doubled to £823m. You make great play in your advertising about your role in building societies, but your actions here will damage the Wanstead community. Do you not accept that customers’ expectations of you are higher than they are of commercially owned banks?

We received this reply:

“Branches play a vital role for our members and the communities in which they live. That’s why we extended our promise originally made in 2019 to leave no town or city where we currently have a presence without a Nationwide branch until at least 2023. We’ve committed to maintaining a strong network, upgrading over 240 branches and investing over £225 million since 2017. That’s a vastly different position from many of our competitors who continue to close significant numbers of branches. To put this into context, between 2015-2020 our network reduced by around five per cent compared to a sector average of 32 per cent.

“However, for branches requiring significant investment, and where there are modern branches nearby, we must consider whether it is the interest of our wider membership to keep the branch open. We need to determine whether it makes more sense to use that money to improve and retain branches elsewhere in our network, particularly in areas where there is lower provision.

“This is the case with Wanstead, where we have eight branches within a three mile radius and we know that 87% of members already use another branch and only 2% of members use the branch exclusively and frequently. Locally, we’ve invested in our branches in Hackney, Walthamstow and South Woodford to bring them up-to-date, ensuring people in the area have modern branches with the latest technology and services. This means we can focus on delivering better services that will provide our members with the best face-to-face experience and help to protect our branch network in the long term.

“We would like to encourage any member who needs any support to contact their branch to talk through their options in more detail. In addition to this we will be holding a tea and tech event on 4 August at 3pm to help members explore online services, anyone interested can speak to our colleagues in branch to book the session.”

10 thoughts on “Some questions for the Nationwide – and some answers”

  1. Very disappointed we are losing the Nationwide – and in their slick and impersonal response. Quoting statistics doesn’t take account of the individual and personal impact.

  2. Presumably because the customers who would find it difficult or even impossible to get to another branch are not the richest members of society they are not important.
    Why am I not surprised?

  3. So disappointed HSBC gone Santandare gone Barclays gone now nationwide all from Wanstead for us oldens got to travel here and there. Not everyone wants to do online banking Don’t worry more coffee shops on the way I know what is more important and the majority of older people are upset

  4. My husband and I are really disappointed by the Nationwide decision to close the Wanstead branch. Our disabled daughter would find it difficult to access her account anywhere else and we have neighbours who would also find travelling on transport to South Woodford or Westfield very difficult. What happened to Nationwide’s commitment to local communities? Their interest rates are so low that I would have thought they had plenty of money to spend on keeping a presence on our High Street.

    1. As others have said very disappointed with Nationwide….. it’s just a few steps to Nat West…. No brainer……..

  5. The follow up questions are: how did Nationwide decide to update the South Woodford branch and not the one in Wanstead? They say part of the decision rests on level of provision in the area but in George Lane there are two banks — Nat West and Barclays — but Wanstead we’re down to one back.
    How can this position be justified? “This means we can focus on delivering better services that will provide our members with the best face-to-face experience and help to protect our branch network in the long term.” If you can’t get to the South Woodford then you’re not having a face-to-face service, and given the society has rolled back on its promise not to close branches, how long before these branches close?

  6. Transfer all your cash to The Nat West ASAP. The sooner we build up their client base the less likely they will leave us!

  7. Nationwide are abandoning their priniples and their reputation and harming their local membership. Where do new customers start those too young to bank on-line? Their local branch of course! A clear breach of a bogus pledge. This closure has no benefit for any Nationwide member because it isn’t thought through!

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