THE Royal Bank of Scotland has made another attempt to convince communities across Highland that customers themselves have shaped its destiny by choosing to switch to new technology.
A detailed response to continuing anger about branch closures in remote areas followed a call from MSPs that the RBS should shelve plans to axe rural branches – pending "a proper study" of the potential impact on the fragile economies of those towns and villages.
Holyrood’s economy committee made the call on Monday while proposing a summit to seek solutions to concerns featured in a new Scottish parliamentary report.
The influential group of MSPs recommended that a system be agreed requiring banks to consult widely before deciding to close a branch.
It also wants the bank to engage closely with communities on its plans for future use of redundant buildings because of concerns about the health of general High Street trade.
The five big banks in Scotland have shut 591 branches since 2010 – more than half.
Of those, RBS closed 70 per cent of its branches during that period, according to the committee’s report.
The Scottish Government reaffirmed its call for banks to "listen carefully to the views of local communities".
Responding to the MSPs, the RBS has reiterated that as customers continue to change the way they bank, it must change the way it serves them.
As a result, it insists it is "investing in our branches and reshaping our network, replacing traditional bricks and mortar branches with alternative ways to bank".
In short, that means mobile banks and people switching to counters at post offices.
An RBS spokesman said: "We’ve proactively engaged with local communities and elected representatives since we announced our decision to close 62 branches in Scotland on December 1, 2017.
"We do understand closing a branch can be difficult for some customers and colleagues who work in these branches. It’s not an easy decision.
"We’ve listened to customers, colleagues, communities and elected representatives and we continue to do so.
"We’ve committed to making no further changes to the size of our branch network in Scotland until at least 2020 – and not to remove or replace, at a suitable nearby location, the branch ATM if there’s no other free-to-use ATM within 1km of the closing branch.
"The way our customers are banking is changing and it is important that we respond to that change. Across Scotland, usage of our branches is down 42 per cent since 2014. Only one per cent of our customers in Scotland visit their branch on a regular weekly basis. Seven in 10 customers are using mobile or online banking."
"We recognise that every customer will have different banking needs and we are committed to ensuring all our customers receive the best possible service.
"We’ve invested to provide more ways to bank with us now than ever before."
He added: "We’ve committed to keeping 10 branches open until the end of 2018.
"Johnston Carmichael has been appointed to carry out an independent review into these 10 branches and are meeting with local customers, representatives, employees and stakeholders in all ten communities to understand the impact of each individual closure.
"We have committed to accepting the recommendations of this review in full."