RBS Cuts Almost 700 Jobs as It Closes 180 U.K., Irish Branches

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc is eliminating about 690 jobs and closing 180 U.K. and Irish branches as Britain’s largest taxpayer-owned lender trims costs after a near-decade of losses.

The Edinburgh-based lender will close 128 of its NatWest branches and 30 Royal Bank of Scotland outlets in the U.K., as well as 22 at Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland, according to a statement on Thursday. RBS said it was making the cuts due to a “dramatic shift” in the way its customers use their services.

Although more than 1,050 employees will be affected by the branch closures, the bank will move 360 staff to other positions, according to spokesmen for the bank.

British and Irish lenders are making deep cuts to their branch networks as customers move online and revenue is squeezed by low interest rates. While the job reductions may be politically unpopular for a lender more than 70 percent-owned by U.K. taxpayers, Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan has pledged to lower operating costs by 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) over the next four years to help return the bank to profit.

“As customers change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them,” RBS said in an emailed statement. “While the branch will still be a core part of our offering to customers, inevitably some branches will have to close.”

Following the closures, the lender will still have about 1,150 branches across its RBS, NatWest and Ulster brands. The closures in the Republic of Ireland equate to about a fifth of its network in the country. Ulster Bank will add mobile banks in rural areas and the Irish postal service will manage cash and checks for personal and business customers, CEO Gerry Mallon said in a statement.

The cuts are “yet another example of short-term decision making having a major impact on staff, customers and local economies,” Larry Broderick, head of Ireland’s Financial Services Union, said in an emailed statement.

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