Express & Star

'Final nail in the coffin': Locals outraged by 'ageist' NatWest bank closures

Residents have said the closure of their local NatWest bank “makes their blood boil’ as 19 more branches are set to go across the UK.

Residents say the move is "ageist" and prioritised younger generations over older ones

Their anger comes as NatWest announced a list of closures to a number of their high-street branches, including Wednesfield High Street, on February 28, and also Castle Street, Dudley, on March 7.

The closures of the physical branches have sparked negative responses from its customers, with many saying the bank is putting younger generations over older people.

Peter Meadows, 72, of Dudley, said: “They are absolutely prioritising the younger generation. I think it’s actually quite ageist.

“Not only will this force us to learn online banking, which is difficult enough, but it will also open more vulnerable people up to cybercriminals.

“There is hardly anything on the high street as is.

“It will be the final nail in the coffin.”

The announcement of the Dudley branch closure also sparked outrage from a Sedgley resident who said he was now going to close his two accounts after 29 years with the bank.

George Jeffries, 51, from Sedgley, said: “Every time I go into a branch somebody hassles me to get the online banking app, and then they say they are closing branches because everyone uses online banking.

“It’s ridiculous. It really makes my blood boil.

“I’ve now decided to close my accounts after 29 years.”

Councillors have also backed residents’ concerns about the closures, with Dudley Council’s Cathryn Bayton, of the St James’s Ward, saying people are being “forced into a position where choices are taken away”.

Councillor Bayton said: “The whole issue of the closure of high street branches is that it’s detrimental to our community.

“I was actually in a bank yesterday and was talking to people in the queue. They were all saying ‘I don’t want to do this online’. They were older and wanted to go into a branch, talk to somebody and have that face-to-face contact and face-to-face advice.

“People are being forced into a position where choices are taken away from them and that’s not acceptable.”

Addressing concerns surrounding online banking, NatWest said they will support those who face challenges with moving to online banking, providing “support and alternatives”.

NatWest said: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.

“We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.

“We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”

The latest list of closures comes as more physical banking branches leave the high street, with 2023 alone seeing 578 banking stores vacate physical premises, opting more for online banking services.