RBS post office move sparks talk of branch closures

image captionRBS and NatWest customers will get further facilities at 11,500 post offices

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced that customers are going to be able to use more facilities at the network of UK post offices.

From later this year, customers of RBS and sister bank NatWest will be able to pay in money at branches - they can already withdraw cash.

The scheme is being publicised five days before the bank's annual results.

But RBS has refused to comment on speculation that the announcement may be linked to further branch closures.

Last year the bank admitted that the number of transactions taking place in branches had fallen by 30% between 2010 and 2013.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that any closure decisions would be taken on a case-by-case basis, for example "if footfall had reduced".

"If we do close a branch, we make sure customers will still have some banking facilities locally, like a post office or a cash machine," she said.

RBS closed more than 80 branches last year and is expected to close more.

Its chief executive, Ross McEwan, said the bank had 10% too many branches.

Analysts do not expect RBS to specify a number of future branch closures next week.

However, some believe that the decision to give customers more facilities in post offices could make it easier for RBS and NatWest to close some High Street operations.

"It will, at the margin, reduce footfall further in branches, so it further facilitates reductions over time," said Ian Gordon, banking analyst with Investec.

Customers of most UK banks already have access to banking facilities at 11,500 branches of the Post Office.

All are open until at least 12:30 on Saturdays, with many opening longer.

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