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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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 That’s why we extended our promise originally made in 2019 to leave no town or city where we currently have a presence without a Nationwide branch until at least 2023.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.”