Spanish-owned bank Santander has announced the closure of 140 of its UK branches, putting 1,270 jobs at risk.
It is the latest high street bank to blame the changing habits of its customers for the closures, but says it hopes to find new jobs for about a third of branch staff under threat.
Spokeswoman Susan Allen said: “The way our customers are choosing to bank with us has changed dramatically in recent years, with more and more customers using online and mobile channels.
“As a result, we have had to take some very difficult decisions over our less-visited branches, and those where we have other branches in close proximity.
“We will support customers of closing branches to find alternative ways to bank with us that best suit their individual needs.
“We are also working alongside our unions to support colleagues through these changes and to find alternative roles for those impacted wherever possible.”
By the end of the year Santander expects to have 614 of its own branches, but says its customers will also have the opportunity to bank via 11,000 Post Office sites across the country.
Plans are in place for a £55 million refurbishment of 100 branches over the next two years, with a focus on ‘personal service, convenience and community engagement’.
The bank says branch transactions have fallen by 23% over the past three years, while those using digital channels have almost doubled.
Ms Allen said branches still had ‘a vital role’ to play for Santander and expected its network – one of the biggest in the UK – would ‘remain stable for the foreseeable future’.
Gareth Shaw of consumer champion Which? said: “These closures will come as a blow for all those who rely on access to traditional banking services across the UK, at a time when branches are disappearing at a rate of more than 60 a month.
“While online banking is on the rise, a third of the country still does not use it and, as we’ve seen from a recent spate of IT failures, such systems are not infallible.
“Despite the switch to digital ways of banking and paying, millions of consumers still need access to cash.
It is vital for a regulator to be given responsibility for ensuring that people have access to the services they rely on.”
A Which? survey last year suggested that as many as two thirds of all Britain’s bank branches had closed in the last 30 years.
Many small towns have lost banking services altogether, forcing consumers including the elderly and infirm to travel miles for access to their money.