Bailed-out lender Royal Bank of Scotland is slashing 470 jobs and axing 158 branches as it battles back to health after nine years of losses.
RBS has lost money every single year since 2008, racking up a total bill of £58billion – even more than its rescue package.
The cutbacks will see 128 of its NatWest outlets close, along with 30 it runs in Scotland under the RBS brand.
Branches are marked for closure in all parts of the country from Bradford to Belgravia.
The bank is even set to shut an outlet in Bishopsgate in the City of London, less than half a mile from its headquarters on the same road.
Bosses claim the closures have been forced on them because ever-fewer customers are coming through the door as online banking takes over.
They said that the number of basic transactions done face-to-face has fallen 43 per cent since 2010, while online and mobile banking is five times as popular.
But the savage cuts also reflect RBS’s dilapidated finances as it continues to suffer the aftereffects of disastrous casino banking before the financial crisis.
Under the leadership of infamous boss Fred ‘the shred’ Goodwin, the lender came within 24 hours of running out of money and was forced to beg the Government for £46billion from taxpayers.
The 2008 rescue saved the lender and the country from financial meltdown but did little to fix its underlying problems. RBS has lost money every single year since 2008, racking up a total bill of £58billion – even more than its rescue package.
The Government still owns 71.5 per cent of the once-proud institution and there are no signs it will sell this stake any time soon.
Changing: The role of the branch is fast moving to a centre for advice, away from basic transactions
Speaking at an annual results day last month – when the bank unveiled losses of another £7billion – chief executive Ross McEwan said even more cost-cutting would be needed than previously thought.
He announced plans to save £750million in 2017, and warned no part of the bank would be left unchanged.
The branch closures revealed yesterday will be completed in six months, with 770 staff affected. Many of them will be offered alternative roles elsewhere, meaning a total of 470 jobs will go.
The cuts will bite everywhere from major cities – with five closures in Glasgow alone – to rural and seaside towns.
In the last two years, 1,046 branches have been shut by the UK’s biggest banks.
Fewer customers are coming through the door as online banking takes over
Campaigners argue that the elderly and vulnerable are always hit hardest, as fewer of them go online and many depend on having a branch nearby for vital services.
Closures also punch holes in the High Street and can deprive small businesses of access to finance, leaving them struggling to survive.
Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary of trade union Unite, said: ‘RBS is turning its back on the communities that have been the foundation of its business for generations.
‘That’s bad news for our members who now have to live with the threat of redundancy – and it’s bad news for customers and businesses.
‘Banks have a duty to the wider community and that is especially the case for banks like RBS that have large taxpayer-owned shareholdings.’
She called on regulators and the Government to make sure banks keep an adequate network open.
RBS, which will have 151 RBS and 856 NatWest branches left after the closures, has said it will create new roles to support people in rural areas and help customers improve their technology skills.
A spokesman said: ‘As customers change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them.
‘The role of the branch is fast moving to a centre for advice, away from basic transactions.
‘While the branch will still be a core part of our offering to customers, inevitably some branches will have to close.
‘We know that some of our customers prefer to do their everyday banking face to face and we will help them with the alternative ways to bank in their community.’