Independent review of Royal Bank of Scotland branches earmarked for closure

Sandy Manson

Sandy Manson

Chair and Head of Client Service

28 September 2018

    Johnston Carmichael publishes independent review 

    Johnston Carmichael, the accountancy and business advisory firm, has today published its independent review of 10 branches earmarked for closure by Royal Bank of Scotland.

    Royal Bank of Scotland announced in December 2017 that it would close a number of branches across the UK. In June 2018, it appointed Johnston Carmichael to conduct an independent review of ten of the bank’s Scottish branches which had been earmarked for closure. These branches were selected for review because they were almost all the last branch in town and more than nine miles from the nearest alternative Royal Bank of Scotland branch.

    Johnston Carmichael was asked to consider whether each of those 10 branches should remain open or if they should close as planned. A significant number of different factors were considered in the review, including availability of alternative banking services to each community.

    The Johnston Carmichael review team received more than 1,000 representations and spoke to a significant number of branch customers, bank staff, elected representatives, and groups representing a range of interests including those customers with disabilities and considered most vulnerable.

    Key findings

    The report recommends that eight branches of the 10 should close as planned, with two branches remaining open. Where a branch has been recommended for closure, in most cases, Johnston Carmichael has suggested a number of important additional measures which could be taken by Royal Bank to enhance the quality and accessibility of alternative banking facilities.

    The branches within the scope of the review and the decisions for each are as follows:

    BiggarRemain open
    CastlebayRemain open
    Kyle of LochalshClose

    * Additional measures suggested

    Sandy Manson, chief executive of Johnston Carmichael, said: “We understand there will be considerable disappointment in those communities where we have recommended that a branch should close. However, in most cases where we have recommended that a branch close, we have also suggested additional steps which we believe the bank should take to enhance the quality and accessibility of the alternative banking facilities available. After careful consideration, Castlebay on Barra and Biggar are two branches that we have recommended should remain open due to the number of different reasons as set out in our report. One of the most important factors we considered in our review was the suitability of accessible alternatives to the services currently provided by the local branch. Each branch had its own unique set of circumstances and this meant that we had to carefully and sensitively consider each branch on a case-by-case basis.

    “Our main focus throughout this review was to determine the likely impact of a particular branch closure on the local community affected. That is why we spent a great deal of time consulting a wide range of interested parties. In particular we wanted to understand the potential impact of a branch closure on the vulnerable groups in the community.

    “We recognise the importance of local banking services being available to these communities, and we have therefore carefully set out our rationale for reaching each recommendation on a branch-by-branch basis.”

    Review process

    The Johnston Carmichael review team visited each branch earmarked for closure twice (excluding Castlebay which was visited once due to logistical reasons).  Firstly, informal visits were made to the majority of branches between June 29 and July 10 2018 and secondly, formal visits were made to each branch during August in order to speak to local customers and other stakeholders and to assess the quality of the alternative banking services available outwith each branch.

    After its appointment in June, Johnston Carmichael notified the Scottish media of the review and how interested parties could make their views known through a variety of channels. A video of chief executive Sandy Manson explaining the review process was also published on the firm’s website and shared on social media, along with a detailed breakdown of the process and contact details for the review team. A link to this information was also added to the website homepage.

    Additional information was posted on the Johnston Carmichael website confirming details and timings of branch visits where customers and stakeholders could meet the Johnston Carmichael review team to discuss the proposed closures. Adverts were also placed in 11 newspapers covering the 10 communities within the scope of the review.

    Input and feedback could be provided via the Johnston Carmichael website; branch visits; in writing; by email; or by completing a written questionnaire.

    Sandy Manson added: “It was critically important for this review to be objective, balanced and an accurate reflection of the range of banking services both required and available in each of these communities. This included a thorough appraisal of alternative banking services available to each community in order to properly understand the likely impact to customers should a branch close.

    “We work in many rural communities across Scotland so we are acutely aware of the importance of the issues at stake in this review. Our team has been thorough and diligent in reviewing the merits of keeping a branch open and the likely impact of closing a branch. We used a comprehensive set of criteria in our assessment of each branch before reaching our conclusions.

    “We would like to express our gratitude to those communities we visited during our review and for the many constructive contributions we received as part of the process.”