Santander is cutting the opening hours of hundreds of branches, saying it is responding to changing customer habits.
The bank said all but four of its branches would now shut at 3pm on weekdays instead of the current 4.30pm, while more than two-thirds would close at 12.30pm instead of 4pm on Saturdays. Pre-booked face-to-face appointments will be available outside the new hours in certain cases.
The changes, which take effect on 18 July, follow branch closure announcements by a number of rival banks. Lloyds Banking Group said in March that it was axing 60 branches, and HSBC recently said it was shutting down 69.
Santander said there would be no closures as part of its changes, and that all of its 450 outlets would remain open every weekday. In March last year the banking group announced the closure of 111 branches across the UK – a fifth of its network.
The new Monday to Friday opening hours from 9.30am to 3pm apply to all branches except for three that are in shopping centers, plus an outlet in Leeds.
The bank said that between 3pm and 5pm on weekdays, staff would be available to see customers who needed help that could not be provided through alternative channels or earlier in the day, and a similar arrangement would apply to the 316 branches moving to half-day Saturday opening.
The bank has blamed the changes on a drop in branch usage and a switch to digital banking. It said the number of customers using its branches fell by 33% over the two years before the pandemic, then by a further 50% in 2020, and 12% in 2021.
It added that to strengthen telephone support for customers, branch staff would be trained to help people on the phone alongside their current face-to-face roles. Branch staff helping customers who call on the phone was introduced as a pilot during the pandemic.
There will be no compulsory redundancies or reduction of employee working hours as a result of the changes, said a spokesperson.
Jenny Ross, money editor at consumer body Which ?, said Santander “deserves credit for taking greater account of customer needs than some of its rivals that have slashed their branch networks without putting in place reasonable alternatives”.
But she added: “This continues a concerning overall trend of banks chipping away at face-to-face services and opening hours… The government must announce, in next month’s Queen’s speech, the legislation it has promised to protect cash for as long as it is needed. ”