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Santander and RBS to close branches following reviews

Steve Pateman, head of UK Banking at Santander, said the closures followed a strategic review that identified a “number of financial challenges” in maintaining the branches, which provided limited banking services in sectors such as property and insurance.

So far, five agency branches have been shut in Northern Ireland and a further three have been closed in North Wales. The bank has served notice on 139 agencies, preparing them for closure.

Mr Pateman said: “Consolidating our operations is a vital next step for Santander, allowing us to concentrate on further enhancements and investment in our proprietary branch network, including branch openings and refurbishments.”

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Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Scotland will partly offset the 40,000 branches it has shut by providing banking services through the Post Office network.

A spokesman confirmed it was continually reviewing its branch network, as RBS’s mobile and online transactions have doubled since 2010.

A spokesman for RBS said: “We review each branch closure on a case-by-case basis, based on local information – for example, whether branch footfall has fallen.

“When we do close a branch, we always look at ways our customers can still access similar banking services, such as ATMs, mobile banks and Post Offices.”

RBS is set to reveal a loss when it posts its financial results for 2013 this week.

Last week, Graham Beale, chief executive of Nationwide building society, said the mutual had seen mortgage lending grow 34 per cent in the nine months to December 2013, which he attributed to gaining market share from the large high street banks.

In the society’s report, it showed that in the nine months to December 2013, its mortgage loans accounted for 15 per cent of the market share compared with 13 per cent in 2012.

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David Hearne, wealth management adviser for London-based Satis Asset Management, said: “It makes sense for banks to make an online push and concentrate on offering a more personal service in fewer branches. Furthermore, a cost-cutting exercise like this might also lead to better interest rates.”