TSB to axe Fort William branch in April

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The TSB has confirmed that its Fort William branch is one of nine in Scotland it intends closing next April.

The closures are among a total of 70 branches across the UK that the TSB intends to shutter, blaming a decline in branch use as more customers bank digitally.

In recent years, the bank has seen a significant decrease in footfall, with the average number of transactions per branch dropping since January 2019, and no prospect of branch transactions returning to pre-Covid levels.

The nearest alternative TSB branch to the one in Fort William High Street is in Oban – some 44 miles away.

It was two years ago, that TSB set out its intention to reduce its branch network and invest in digital services, as part of its strategy to meet the future needs of customers, but the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated the shift away from branch services, with customers shopping and doing more online.

Over 90 per cent of customer transactions are now carried out digitally and video banking accounts for more than 90 per cent of mortgage appointments.

The branches that close carry out around a third (32 per cent) fewer transactions than the TSB national average. There is also a Post Office or free-to-use ATM within a mile of each closing branch.

TSB’s chief customer officer, Robin Bulloch, said: ‘Closing branches is an incredibly difficult decision to take, but we have to respond to the changes in the way people bank and provide the right mix of services for all our customers now and into the future.’

Mr Bulloch added that, where it takes longer to get to the nearest TSB branch, the bank will introduce more ‘pop-up’ services in communities, including in Fort William.

At ‘pop-ups’, TSB advisors provide face-to-face support, including making payments, providing product information and helping customers get started with digital banking.

All staff impacted by these changes will have the opportunity to move to an alternative role in TSB.

Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor, Niall McLean, commented: ‘Connectivity in Highland is not yet at the stage where branches’ costumers can rely on internet services. Businesses will be further disadvantaged being based in remote areas.

NO F34 McLean 01
Councillor Niall McLean

‘Older and less well-off people will be most affected due to access to internet and devices. It will be a sad day in Fort William as this branch has fabulous staff who have been helping the people of Lochaber for decades with their financial management, always going the extra mile to help.’

Lochaber constituency MSP Kate Forbes told us: ‘Whilst I recognise that many people and businesses are increasingly using online banking, I am disappointed that this will be yet another branch closure in the West Highlands.

Skye and Lochaber MSP Kate Forbes is concerned about new mortgage debt figures for her constituency.NO F50 Kate Forbes in parliament
Kate Forbes , MSP for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency.
NO F50 Kate Forbes in parliament

‘TSB has told me that only four customers have been using the Fort William branch regularly on a weekly basis, and that customer transactions in person have more than halved since the pandemic started.

‘I will be engaging with the bank and particularly around what reasonable alternative arrangements can be put in place from April.’

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said he recognised how individuals and businesses access banking is changing, but seeing branches lost in major towns such as Fort William was still extremely disappointing.

MSP JAMIE HALCRO JOHNSTON Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos Jamie-Halcro-Johnston-concerned-01.jpg
MSP JAMIE HALCRO JOHNSTON Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

‘While I accept that increasing amounts of banking is now done online, many still rely on access to their local branch and the services they have traditionally provided,’ added Mr Halcro Johnston.

‘The swathe of closures we’ve seen in recent years have left remote and rural communities across the Highlands and Islands even further from being able to access face-to-face banking, something those who live in the Central Belt of Scotland can still enjoy.’