NatWest this week revealed the first of a new generation of high
street branches designed to be more customer friendly, as part of the
continuing rationalisation of its branch network.
The bank, which is axing 350 of its 1750 branches in the run up to the
millennium, is hoping to provide a more welcoming atmosphere by removing
the barriers between staff and customers, and providing facilities such
as satellite TV, newspapers and coffee machines.
The initiative is part of a broader movement in the banking sector
toward improved customer service. It also reflects the trend for cutting
back on staff in outlets by introducing more automated banking for basic
Barclays is currently testing a similar concept called Barclays Express,
while Abbey National, which recently introduced charges for some
customers who queue for over-the-counter transactions, is also believed
to be considering radical new outlets.
The prototype NatWest branch in the Bentalls Centre, in
Kingston-upon-Thames, relies on cash machines for day-to-day
transactions and uses specially trained staff for face-to-face advice
and consulting only.