We’re alive and well, and expanding says Nationwide

With many banks and building societies shutting up shop on some British High Streets, Nationwide has moved to express confidence in its own branch network.

The UK’s building society said that its own 700-strong branch network was “alive and well” and that it would now be looking to plug the gap left by rivals exiting the High Street.

Nationwide is running a pilot scheme at its Glastonbury branch in Somerset. The community contract branch is being formed after more than a thousand local residents said they would become Nationwide members to ensure that the investment from the building society was supported.

The move comes after Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC all exited the town.

However, Nationwide CEO Joe Garner said there was still a place within local communities for banks and building societies.

He said: “There is still a role for the branch on the high street, offering people the choice of managing their money using the latest technology in-branch together with the personal service so many value

“Indeed, our branches are alive and well as evidenced by the fact that of all new current account openings during the first half of the year, over half were opened in a branch.”

Nearly a fifth of new account openings came as a result of Nationwide Now, a video link service connecting customers to consultants.

Mr Garner said that Nationwide would be using new technology to look at whether opening a branch on individual high streets would be viable.

He added: “We don’t know where this will go and will only find out by opening a branch, then seeing what happens, which will determine our appetite beyond that.”

Mr Garner said the building society was making what he described a “comfortably sufficient profit” to ensure it could press ahead with plans to give value to members, even though its margins were being squeezed by record interest rate lows.

According to latest Nationwide figures, half year profit dropped by 13 per cent from £802 million to £696 million.

However, Mr Garner said that Nationwide remained committed to promises it had made to help both savers and borrowers.

Pledges include the protection of certain savings rates in a bid to minimise the falling base rate for savers, and helping customers with variable rate mortgages by passed on the base rate decrease in full.

“These decisions,” said Mr Garner, “have contributed to a reduction in profits.”