Bank bosses fail to impress Scottish MPs

The Royal Bank of Scotland in Duns  closed in 2018
The Royal Bank of Scotland in Duns closed in 2018

Borders MP John Lamont hit out at bosses of big banks for failing to protect branches and misunderstanding their own customers in the region.

At a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee, senior managers from TSB, RBS, Santander and Bank of Scotland gave evidence to the Committee on access to financial services.

John pressed the banks on alternatives to closing branches, asking: “Why do you automatically decide to close the branch rather than looking at alternative services which might entice people in and increase your numbers?”

The response from the bank bosses was mixed: some claiming they were trying to offer alternative services, but all saying that high streets in decline left them little choice.

Susan Allen, head of retail and business banking at Santander claimed elderly customers “could very easily” do banking at home and the banks had an obligation to offer these alternatives.

John slammed this comment, saying: “I think you should be looking after your most vulnerable customers and I would suggest to you that the customers you refer to are people who you owe a much higher duty of care compared to anybody else who may have other options of banking available to them.”

Speaking afterwards, John Lamont MP said: “These comments just reinforce my view that banks really do not understand the customers and communities they serve, particularly in rural areas.

“I was particularly irritated to hear banks telling us that high streets were dying, when they themselves are one major reason why smaller communities are struggling. Access to financial services is becoming increasingly difficult in the Borders and without a change in priorities from the major banks, this trend is going to continue.”