Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks to reduce presence in south of England

Account holders concerned as NAB announces shrinking of UK businesses to focus on Scotland and north, with loss of 1,400 jobs

If you are a customer of Yorkshire Bank or Clydesdale Bank and live south of Sheffield, you’ve got every reason to feel fed-up after the company that owns them pulled the plug on some of its operations in southern England and said it would be focusing on Scotland and the north.

Among those affected by this week’s shakeup are some of the banks’ better-off customers – those with a joint household income of £100,000-plus or individual earnings of £75,000 or more – who currently deal with a named individual at their nearest private banking and business banking centre.

There are fears they could face upheaval because 29 of these “financial solutions centres” are being closed as part of the restructuring, while nine will be merged with local retail branches. In addition, six back office locations will be shut as part of the “downsizing” strategy, which will see more than 1,400 jobs axed.

Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale Bank are both owned by Melbourne-based National Australia Bank (NAB), which announced on Monday that it was shrinking its UK businesses and “focusing on our strengths in Scotland and the north of England”. It added: “To secure a sustainable future we must concentrate on retail and [business] banking in our traditional heartlands.”

A spokesman for the two banks denied they were giving up on people in the south of England. He claimed “the vast majority” of the 2.7 million personal and business customers will not be affected, and that the combined branch network – Yorkshire has 185 and Clydesdale 152 – would stay at “over 330”.

However, it is hard to believe that the drastic cut in the number of financial solutions centres – from 73 to 44, with most of those being axed in the south – will not have an impact. These cater for the well-off and businesses. The paucity of information made available about what the restructuring will mean won’t have done anything to reassure customers. At the time of writing, the only information on the banks’ websites was a statement aimed at the City and investors.

Guardian Money was contacted on Wednesday by a concerned Clydesdale Bank customer who lives in south London. She signed up with Clydesdale’s private banking service three years ago after becoming fed-up with the service she was getting from Lloyds, and moved four accounts – three current accounts and a savings account containing a large sum – over to the bank. She is a customer of the Gatwick financial solutions centre in Crawley, West Sussex, and was concerned it might be one of those being axed.

“They are fantastic. I have someone in Crawley who I can ring up and it’s the same person all the time – I know them. I’ve had no communication at all from them about whether my centre is closing. It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth if you live in the south and you’ve switched from another bank. What does it mean for my accounts? Where are they going to be serviced, and who am I going to be dealing with? The thought of having to change to another bank fills me with horror.”

Guardian Money approached the banks for more information about how the changes will affect customers and, after initially being rebuffed, we were given a list of the 29 centres being closed. They are in Basingstoke, Bath, Bearsden, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Cheshire, Coventry, Croydon, Dunfermline, Guildford, Hertford, Inverurie, London (Canary Wharf, Paddington, Richmond and Wood Street), Maidstone, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Paisley, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Truro, Tunbridge Wells, Watford and Worcester. In all cases, customers will be transferred to another centre.

A sizeable number of the jobs going – 670 – will result from the closure of the financial solutions centres in the south.

The woman who called us was relieved to discover that her centre in Crawley is not for the chop. However, it will be absorbing customers from six others that are closing.

The spokesman told us: “There will be customer letters going out.” Some people had already received phone calls, he added. “These changes will be done over time. Our customer base is important to us.”

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