NatWest’s announcement in August 2011 of its intention to close its Pangbourne branch raised a variety of concerns including that of the future prosperity of Pangbourne following the implied reduction in services which would potentially damage the local economy. Another major concern was the potential impact upon vulnerable members of the community for whom trips to the branch represented an important fixture in their daily lives. NatWest’s Pangbourne customers were also unhappy that some Pangbourne branch bank accounts might be automatically transferred to alternative NatWest branches, leaving customers with a considerably longer journey to their home branch.
Action taken by Alok:
On hearing the news of the closure, Alok and Pangbourne Councillor Pamela Bale together hosted a meeting for local residents and business leaders to express their concerns to representatives of NatWest and RBS regarding the closure. The meeting focused on the short notice given of the intended closure, the manner in which this was communicated and the lack of a rational explanation for the closure.
Following the meeting, NatWest and RBS representatives were still unable to give any detailed rationale for the closure and nor were they prepared to reverse the decision to close the Pangbourne branch.
Alok wrote to a number of senior executives at NatWest and RBS, including Stephen Hester, Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Unfortunately, none were able to clarify whether the Pangbourne branch was indeed profitable or why it was decided it should close.
NatWest’s Pangbourne branch subsequently closed in November 2011 with the bank insisting that the branch was no longer financially viable. Alok expressed his deep sympathy for local residents and businesses regarding the closure, but had to acknowledge NatWest’s right as a private company to make this business decision.