The Co-operative Bank announced the closure of 18 branches, a move that will result in 350 job losses.
The bank said the reduction would affect staff at the branches that will be closed as well as middle management positions and head office roles.
Chief executive Andrew Bester attributed the decision to the low base rate affecting the income of all banks and economic uncertainty going forward.
He said: “Our people have shown great dedication and commitment to our customers over the past few months, so we are very sorry to announce this news today. Unfortunately, we’re not immune to the impact of recent events, with the historically low base rate affecting the income of all banks and a period of prolonged economic uncertainty ahead, which means it’s important we reduce costs and have the right-sized operating model in place for the future.
“At the same time, we are responding to the continuing shift of more and more customers choosing to bank online, with lower levels of transactions in branches, a trend which has been increasing for some time, across the banking sector and more broadly.
“The Bank is in a resilient position given the significant progress we’ve made in recent years, and our focus is on maintaining this as we continue to support our customers through the crisis. We will do all we can to support colleagues through the process with fairness and respect.”
The 18 branches due to close are: Ashton, Bradford, Cambridge, Chatham, Chester, Chichester, City of London, Dartford, Halesowen, Harrogate, Luton, Oxford, Rotherham, Solihull, Truro, Wakefield, Walsall, and York. These have been chosen based on an analysis of individual branch footfall over a 12-month period [January-December 2019] prior to the start of lockdown.
The closures will be completed by 1 December 2020 and the Bank will be writing to affected customers to provide information about alternative options, including Post Office counter services, telephone, online and mobile banking.
In May the Bank reported a loss for the first quarter of 2020 which, it said, was influenced by a £12m hit from Covid-19.
The Bank made a statutory loss after tax of £15.8m in the first three months of the year, down from £29m for the first quarter of 2019. Its operating income for the same period was £75.8m, down 20% from £94.8m in the first quarter of 2019 (1Q).
While no longer owned by the Co-operative Group, the Bank continues to support the co-operative movement by funding the Hive co-operative development project (delivered by Co-operatives UK). It also has a formal recognition agreement with The Customer Union for Ethical Banking, a member-owned co-operative set up to represent its customers and ensure the Bank maintains and extends its customer-led Ethical Policy.