By Andrew MacAskill
(Reuters) – State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> said on Thursday it planned to close about 180 bank branches in Britain and Ireland and about 1,000 roles were at risk in the latest round of cuts and closures at the lender.
The Edinburgh-based said in a statement the changes were due to a “dramatic shift” in retail banking with more customers increasingly banking online.
RBS said about 770 roles may be eliminated in Britain and about 220 roles in the Republic of Ireland.
The bank said there may be a net reduction of about 480 jobs when newly created roles are included. It plans to close about 128 NatWest, 30 Royal Bank of Scotland and 22 Ulster Bank branches.
“We’re frustrated to see RBS show so little loyalty to our high streets,” the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said. “Branch closures put pressure on local economies and make it harder for local firms to access banking services.”
RBS said the number of people going into branches had dropped by about half on average since 2010, while the number of people making transactions online had jumped fourfold.
“As customers change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them,” the bank said in the statement.
Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan has cut thousands of jobs partly in response to low interest rates and slowing economic growth which have pushed RBS and several of its UK rivals to reduce expenses.
RBS is struggling to return to health after requiring the world’s largest bank bailout at the height of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and after nine years of straight annual losses.
The bank warned of more jobs and branch closures when it announced a 7 billion pound ($8.8 billion) annual loss last month. At the time, it said it planned to cut 2 billion pounds of costs from the business over the next four years to help improve profits.
RBS will be left with just over 1,000 branches across Britain following the closures.
(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin and Elisabeth O’Leary. Editing by Lawrence White and David Evans)