‘Banks must reinvent themselves to survive’ says building society expanding into East Anglia

Natwest is closing five branches in Norfolk. Among them is Gorleston's High Street branch.

Natwest is closing five branches in Norfolk. Among them is Gorleston's High Street branch. Picture: Sonya Duncan. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The boss of a growing building society says he sees a future for finance on the high street despite a raft of bank branch closures in recent weeks.

The Nottingham Building Society will this month reopen seven branches formerly run by the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society in East Anglia, which has scaled back its high-street presence as it rebrands under its parent company Yorkshire.

The Nottingham's decision to move into premises in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire has also led to 21 former N&P staff being taken on. It has already opened a Thetford branch, and will open Dereham and Fakenham branches next week.

By the end of 2017, The Nottingham will have completed an expansion that has seen it more than double in size from 32 outlets to 67 in five years – despite an industry backdrop in which national banks are closing branches by the hundred.

It says that branches can have a future if they reinvent themselves to be more relevant to consumers, and by answering their demand for financial advice. The building society has also brought estate agency services and whole-of-market advice on mortgages and financial planning into its branches to appeal to a broader demographic.

Chief executive David Marlow said: 'We know from our own members and from talking to customers in research that they truly value the face-to-face expert advice and service that branches provide.

'Branch closures are leading to more people finding it difficult to access face-to-face advice and service when it comes to dealing with key financial issues in their lives and this is particularly true in market towns, where much of our focus is placed.

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'Our branches offer a unique range of services from savings products, whole of market advice on mortgages and financial and estate planning.'

Last week, Lloyds Bank announced it would close 49 branches nationally, putting 99 jobs at risk, just a day before Natwest and Royal Bank of Scotland said they would shut 259 branches and cut 680 staff. This year N&P announced it would close 30 branches in East Anglia.

Following the most recent announcements, Ipswich Building Society said it had reviewed its own network and decided to invest in its premises in Ipswich and Woodbridge after discovering that one in three members had visited at least one of its branches in the past year.

Chief executive Richard Norrington said: 'The society's board and I fully support a face-to-face approach and while our members continue to utilise this it will play a key part in our service strategy.'