Union leaders questioning sale of RBS branches to Santander

Questioning whether consumers’ best interests are being protected by Spain-based bank Santander’s approved acquisition of over 300 RBS branches,  union leaders voiced their concerns that High Street lacks competition.

In a little more than half a decade, the Spanish bank has become one of the biggest business bank accounts in the UK; today’s deal has given Santander more branches than its closest rival, HSBC.

In buying the 318 branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland (a deal valued at £1.65bn), Santander has effective hired on an additional   5,000 staff, opened 40 banking centres which are geared towards managing  small and medium sized enterprise, four  banking centres devoted to corporate enterprise, and three additional private banking centres that all together account for 244,000 small business bank account customers and 1,200 larger corporate accounts.

EU regulators forced RBS to sell the 318 branches to recoup the costs of its £54bn taxpayer bailout nearly two years ago; hopes for the sale to increase banking competition by attracting newer entrants into the financial landscape of High Street.

Union leadership was critical of the decision to sell all 318 branches to one bank.

RBS’s Unite officer Stuart Davies stated that the branch sale was not as beneficial to consumers as it could have been.  Davies commented that since Santander already owns such a large number of banks in the UK, the variety of banking options available to consumers is in danger of dwindling.

Consumer rights group Which? has been quick to point out the need for public interest tests whenever any nationalised UK banking instiutions were bought or sold in the past. Peter Vicary-Smith, the firm’s chief executive, commented that a very large opportunity to increase the amount of retail banking competition has unfortunately been missed with the sale to Santander.  Vicary-Smith stated that moving a high number of account holders from one large banking institution to another does little to increase consumer support.  Additionally Vicary-Smith concluded his statement by pointing out Santander’s recent poor track record in regards to customer service issues.

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