The Woolwich is to disappear from UK high streets under plans announced yesterday by parent company Barclays Bank.
Barclays says the Woolwich brand will not completely disappear but will be incorporated into new and existing Barclays branches where it will continue to act as a mortgage provider.
The bank says sustained development of its mortgage business, marketed under The Woolwich brand, is one of its highest priorities adding it has already increased productivity and made a multi-million pound investment in advertising and marketing of the Woolwich brand this year.
Over the next 18 months the Woolwich will become the Barclays UK banking mortgage product brand, moving in-store in all branch locations with Woolwich branches being re-branded Barclays.
Barclays says it intends to begin work on the transition in February 2007.
It claims it tested this approach in Aberdeen last year where Barclays and Woolwich branches were consolidated with success.
Deanna Oppenheimer, UK retail banking chief executive at Barclays, says the bank’s focus will be on enhancing the Woolwich brand, while improving the Barclays branch network, and streamlining back office processing. “Once complete these improvements will make all of our branches available to all of our customers, who will see familiar faces serving them in better looking and better equipped premises,” she adds.
Woolwich and Barclays branches that are within 300 metres or less of each other, amounting to about 10% of the network, will be consolidated into single premises.
Local management will contribute to the final evaluations to reflect community-specific circumstances. All relevant branches will be upgraded to accommodate increased in customer traffic.
Staff from consolidated branches will move into the retained and refurbished premises, which will be fitted with additional tills and new counter technology. Barclays says it neither seeks or expects any front-line redundancies as a result of the changes.
Meanwhile back-office operations for UK retail banking at Barclays are to be scaled down with key processes being streamlined and automated.
Two sites, in Bexleyheath and Clacton, will close. Clacton will close at the end of 2007 and Bexleyheath in mid 2008. A Barclays processing centre in Dudley will also close at the end of 2007. The bank has been in consultation with Amicus on its plans for all three sites and staff told of the potential future impact.
The sites currently have a combined workforce of 1,203 but Barclays claims it intends to manage staff turnover carefully and that it will take active steps to re-deploy as many staff as possible. It says it expects the number of employees made redundant will be significantly smaller as a result but does not give an indication of the number of redundancies it expects to make.
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