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Nationwide extends pledge to protect branches through 2024 as rival lenders cut opening hours

Nationwide has extended its commitment to protect branches in cities and towns until 2024.

The promise to keep its doors open for another year – first revealed by the Mail on Sunday – comes as other high street moneylenders slash opening hours and cut branches by the hundreds.

But as customers grapple with the cost of living crisis, it said it would maintain its 625 branches to provide struggling members with face-to-face advice.

Doors Open: Nationwide, led by chief executive Debbie Crosbie (pictured), said it would maintain its 625 branches to provide struggling members with face-to-face counseling

Nationwide, whose status as a building society means it is owned by its customers rather than profit-hungry investors, yesterday saw Debbie Crosbie become the first female chief executive in its 175-year history.

Customers wondered if it would stick to its promise to keep the branch network open beyond next January, when the current promise is due to expire.

In her former job as TSB boss, Crosbie closed hundreds of bank branches. But yesterday Nationwide said it would extend its commitment until at least 2024, allaying fears among its 16.3 million members that its name was starting to fade from the high street.

Through its pledge, Nationwide states that it will not leave any town or city in which it is based without a branch.

He admits that there are certain circumstances in which it may be impossible to keep a branch open if there is more than one in the same town or city.

But Crosbie said: “Supporting members through the cost of living crisis is my immediate priority.

“That’s why I’ve decided to extend our promise to keep branches on the high street.

“As a mutual, all the profits we generate are reinvested for the benefit of our members.

This gives us choices on how best to meet their needs. Extending the Branch Promise, members facing financial hardship can discuss the practical support we offer in person with specially trained colleagues.

Banks are expected to close about 500 more branches this year, to reduce costs and increase returns for investors.

Since January 2015, more than 4,976 locations have closed according to consumer champion Which?. Barclays eliminated the most, at 841.

Lenders blamed “declining use of branches” as customers move online. But critics worry that by cutting physical locations, banks are leaving people vulnerable or those who prefer to talk to an adviser face-to-face non-stop.

Under Crosbie’s leadership, TSB, which is owned by Spanish bank Sabadell, closed 244 branches during the pandemic.

Another 70 are on the block this year, which means more than 300 will have closed in three years.

But Crosbie’s commitment for another year is likely to put her in the members’ good books as she begins her role.

She said: ‘This is the first of a series of initiatives that Nationwide will be launching for members in the coming months.