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Santander to reduce bank branch opening hours

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Santander is cutting its branch opening hours from July in what it says is a response to long-term trends in customer behaviour.

The changes mean branches will operate from 9.30am to 3pm on weekdays, instead of until 4.30pm.

The bank said branch staff will still be available for pre-booked face-to-face appointments between 3pm and 5pm, if customers need support that cannot be provided through alternative channels or earlier in the day.

A handful of branches situated in shopping centres will be excluded from the changes.

These include the Gateshead Metro branch, which will open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm; the Sheffield Meadowhall branch will open on weekdays from 10.30am to 7.30pm; and the Basingstoke branch will be open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 7pm.

The Work Cafe in Leeds will also be open on weekdays between 9am and 4.30pm, Santander said.

The bank said the number of customers using its branches fell by a third (33%) over the two years before the coronavirus pandemic, and a further 50% in 2020 and 12% in 2021.

The changes will take place from July 18 and Santander said there will be no compulsory redundancies or a reduction of employee working hours as a result.

The bank plans to beef up its telephone support for customers and said branch staff will be trained to help on the phone alongside their current face-to-face roles.

The shake-up will also see 316 branches move from being open from 9.30am to 4pm on Saturdays to operating a half-day service, closing at 12.30pm.

Face-to-face appointments can still be made at these branches until 4pm.

Meanwhile, 76 branches will retain their current half-day opening hours on a Saturday, and 58 sites will remain closed on a Saturday.

There will be no branch closures as part of the changes, Santander said, adding that all of its 450 sites will remain open every weekday.

There will be also be no change in the number of branches open on a Saturday, with 87% sites operating from 9.30am to 12.30pm.

The bank said the changes reflect a thorough review of when customers use its branches.

Santander branch
Most Santander bank branches will operate reduced hours from mid-July (PA)

Richard Owen, head of branches at Santander, said: “These changes will enable us to maintain our existing branch network while providing significant additional capacity to help customers who want to talk to us by phone.

“We have seen a continuing reduction in branch usage over several years, both before and since the peak of the pandemic, with many customers preferring to transact digitally or contact us by phone.

“We want to make sure we have the right mix of channels to help our customers however they choose to bank with us.”

Santander said it will be writing to regular branch customers to explain the new opening hours and to offer support.

Bank branch and ATM closures in recent years have sparked concern about people being easily able to access their money. The Government has said it will legislate to protect the future of cash.

Several industry initiatives have been taking place, such as cashback in shops, and shared “banking hubs”.

Santander said it remains actively committed to the wider access to cash movement, with representation on several industry working groups and participation in the Cash Action Group’s shared hub initiative.

Which? Money editor Jenny Ross said: “Santander deserves credit for taking greater account of customer needs than some of its rivals that have slashed their branch networks without putting in place reasonable alternatives. But this continues a concerning overall trend of banks chipping away at face-to-face services and opening hours.

“While proposals from individual banks and the industry to protect cash are welcome, a piecemeal approach is unlikely to be enough to safeguard access to cash for the millions of people who rely on it.”

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