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Banks reduce hours and impose social distancing measures to combat coronavirus

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

Major banks and building societies are temporarily reducing their opening hours and/or shutting branches as coronavirus spreads.

Social distancing measures are also being imposed in branches to help limit the spread of Covid-19 – which may result in longer queues outside.

Some providers are encouraging customers to only visit a branch if it is absolutely necessary, with digital and telephone banking services also available.

Here is a round-up of what has been said:

– Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society, announced on Tuesday that it has cut branch opening hours until further notice to reduce the risk from coronavirus.

Core hours for most branches will now be 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 12pm on Saturdays.

Nationwide said the steps have been taken to help wider efforts to stunt the growth of the virus.

It said there will also be increased distancing between employees and customers to give greater confidence and safety.

There will be a two-metre distance rule between staff and customers at all times, while numbers of people in branches will be restricted to ensure rules around space can be controlled as much as possible.

The society has closed around 50 of its 650 branches due to low staffing.

Mandy Beech, Nationwide’s director of branches, said: “We remain open and we will try to keep as many of our branches open while we are able to.

“However, where possible we would ask people, particularly those at higher risk, to use online or mobile banking services and to speak to us if they have any needs or concerns. ”

The society is urging people to check its branch finder: locations.nationwidebranches.co.uk/search.

– TSB

From Tuesday, TSB has amended its opening hours to the following:

Monday to Friday (or whichever weekdays a branch is open): 10am to 4pm, closed 12.30pm to 1.30pm to clean the branch.

Saturday (for those branches that normally open on Saturday): 9am to 1pm.

Branches will be shut on Sundays.

TSB is emailing customers for whom it has an email address to set out how they can continue to bank. For others, it will be sending out letters shortly.

Further information is on TSB’s website: www.tsb.co.uk/coronavirus.

TSB is also trying to call its vulnerable customers.

– HSBC UK

A spokesman for HSBC UK said: “During this difficult time, our priority remains the service we offer whilst ensuring the welfare of both customers and colleagues.

“To help stop the spread of Covid-19, we have temporarily adjusted opening hours and available services at a number of branches, and in line with public health advice we have implemented social distancing measures across our network.

“We thank customers for their understanding and patience.

“Customers are urged to only visit a branch if absolutely necessary and are reminded they can use our mobile, online, video and telephone services to manage their everyday banking needs without needing to leave their home.”

Opening hours will vary by branch and customers can find out more using the “branch finder” tool on HSBC’s website.

Customers will be advised to stay two metres away from others in the branch.

Social distancing measures may mean HSBC UK has to limit the number of customers who can enter a branch. This will be appropriate to each branch.

HSBC UK branch interiors, including ATMs and customer telephones, will be subjected to a daily disinfected clean.

– Lloyds Banking Group (includes Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland)

Of a network of just over 1,600 branches, around 200 are temporarily closed, with another 100 operating reduced hours.

A statement from Lloyds Banking Group said: “Our focus is on providing essential services, so that customers can continue to access cash, and ensuring that those who are vulnerable or in financial difficulty can speak to colleagues.”

The group will not be operating its mobile branch service at this time. It aims to keep as many branches open as it can, subject to staff availability and health and safety requirements.

People can find more information about affected branches on the bank’s website.

It is also displaying clear and prominent notices in branches explaining the need to adhere to social distancing.

This means customers may need to wait longer, or queues may appear longer due to social distancing rules.

In some cases, in smaller branches or where a banking hall is busy, customers might need to wait outside a branch to keep safe distances inside.

Where a branch has closed, customers can still use online services and call centres.

– NatWest/RBS

A NatWest/RBS spokesman said: “Our branch network remains open from Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm. Aligned to the relevant public health guidance, we have reviewed our opening hours to ensure we can cater for our colleagues who are absent, many of them self-isolating.

“Customers can continue to access their banking services through our other channels digital, mobile, ATMs, video banker, telephony and Post Office.

“We’re also proactively contacting elderly and vulnerable customers to help them meet their banking needs and this remains a priority.”

The banks are asking customers not to come into a branch unless it is necessary and have introduced social distancing measures in branches to protect customers and staff. This may result in longer queues inside and outside the branch.

– Barclays

Barclays has not made any decision to permanently close branches, although some may temporarily close or reduce opening hours due to staff availability.

It is closely monitoring the situation as it develops and following official guidance.

Barclays said its goal is to keep branches open for as long as it can and, above all, safe for staff and customers.