Santander to cut branch opening hours as more customers go online

Here’s what Santander’s reduced opening hours mean for you

woman online banking with credit card
(Image credit: getty images)

High-street bank Santander will cut its branch opening hours from July in what it says is a response to long-term trends in customer behaviour.

The changes mean branches will operate from 9.30am to 3pm on weekdays, instead of until 4.30pm.

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The shake-up will also see 316 branches move from being open from 9.30am to 4pm on Saturdays to operating a half-day service, closing at 12.30pm.

The bank said branch staff will still be available for pre-booked face-to-face appointments between 3pm and 5pm during the weekday, if customers need support that cannot be provided through alternative channels or earlier in the day.

Santander says the number of customers using its branches fell by a third (33%) over the two years before the coronavirus pandemic, and a further 50% in 2020 and 12% in 2021.

The changes will take place from July 18. Some branches situated in shopping centres will be excluded from the changes.

The bank said it plans to beef up its telephone support for customers and said branch staff will be trained to help on the phone alongside their current face-to-face roles.

Meanwhile, 76 branches will retain their current half-day opening hours on a Saturday, and 58 sites will remain closed on a Saturday.

There will be no branch closures as part of the changes, Santander said, adding that all of its 450 sites will remain open every weekday.

The bank said the changes reflect a thorough review of when customers use its branches.

Richard Owen, head of branches at Santander, said: “These changes will enable us to maintain our existing branch network while providing significant additional capacity to help customers who want to talk to us by phone. We have seen a continuing reduction in branch usage over several years, both before and since the peak of the pandemic, with many customers preferring to transact digitally or contact us by phone.

Santander said it will be writing to regular branch customers to explain the new opening hours and to offer support.

How to bank online?

With more banks closing their branches, customers are being forced to go online.

Online banking allows you to access your bank account, including savings accounts, and carry out transactions over the internet, using a smartphone, tablet or computer. You can pay bills or transfer money without having to visit a branch or call up your bank. Most banks have free and secure mobile apps.

Is online banking safe?

Banks take security very seriously and invest heavily to ensure that your money and account is safe. Websites are encrypted, meaning they are protected from anyone attempting to pry on your personal details. Other safety measures include timed logouts, where you are automatically logged out of your account if you are inactive for a short period of time, as well as multi-step log-in processes. This can include a username and password, access codes, or if you use a bank’s smartphone app, face or fingerprint recognition technology can be used to prove your identity.

How do I set up online banking?

Each bank has a slightly different process, so it may be worth getting in touch with your banking provider to find out exactly how you can set up online banking.

If you already have an account with a bank, then you can register for online services via their website. They will also be happy to help in branch or over the phone. Alternatively, you may wish to set up a new account with a new provider.

To ensure your online account is secure, the bank may ask you to visit a local branch to prove your identity or they may text you a set-up code. If your bank does not offer online banking services, or if you simply wish to switch, it’s easy to move accounts using the current account switch service.

Additional reporting from the Press Association

Tom Higgins

Tom Higgins is a journalist covering all aspects of the financial world, from investing and sustainability to pensions and personal finance. He graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in June 2020 and has since written online and in print for the Financial Times group, New Statesman media group, numerous trade magazines, and has worked with Bloomberg on social media projects. He has a deep interest in environmentalism, social change, and data-driven storytelling. He can be found tweeting at @tomhuwhig.