'Bad result for Portswood'
The only remaining ‘big four’ bank in Portswood, NatWest, is set to close on October 5.
NatWest reduced its opening hours to just four each weekday in July last year, and with its London Road branch also reportedly closing, it means its nearest branches will probably be in Southampton High Street or in Bitterne.
Portswood councillor John Savage (Lab), pictured, described the news as a “bad result for Portswood”.
“This will affect lots of customers and businesses in the Portswood area, particularly the elderly who may find it more difficult to move towards online and telephone banking. It seems to be a sign of the times that customers and employees who have been loyal to their high street bank for years will suddenly find themselves without local services, and in the case of staff, without a job.”
He said Portswood should be a thriving retail and business area, and the loss of its last high street bank may make regeneration that bit more difficult.
“I think that even in these changing times of new and different ways of engaging in banking services it is most important that a working high street has at least one bank to serve its community. It’s a sad day, as in the future Portswood will need to rely for banking services on Nationwide and Halifax building societies.”
In a statement, a NatWest spokesperson said: “The way people choose to bank with us has changed radically over the last few years. Between 2010 and 2015, mobile and online transactions have increased by over 400% and mobile transactions alone have increased by 1,350%. Since 2011 we have seen the number of transactions in the Southampton Portswood branch decline by 36%. These customers are actively choosing to bank in different ways, with 64.3% of customers choosing to use our digital banking options.
“We are communicating with our customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers. We have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months. This has been done in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them.”
She said “digital experts” would be offering customers training and support with digital skills until it closes.
Other banks have also left the suburb over the last few years: permission is being sought to turn the former Lloyds bank, opposite Sainsbury’s, into a café with an additional two storeys for accommodation, and both the former Barclays, which closed in 2014 blaming a decline in customer usage, and HSBC, which was on the corner of Westridge Road, are now coffee shops.
Barclays in Portswood, pictured in 2014