A bank has signalled more closures and job cuts just two years after several Tayside and Fife branches shut.
Santander closed its branches in Brechin, Forfar, Kirkcaldy and St Andrews in 2019.
Now, the lender has indicated more cuts as it looks to slash costs.
The move comes after its profits nearly halved in 2020.
Where are Santander staff located in Tayside and Fife?
The bank has four branches in Courier Country:
- Reform Street, Dundee
- Arbroath High Street
- Perth High Street
- Dunfermline High Street
Change in overall headcount
Nathan Bostock, UK chief executive of the Spanish-owned group, said it will continue to review its 564-strong branch network as the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards online banking.
He added that moves to trim more costs under an ongoing overhaul could mean further job cuts among its 21,900 workforce.
He said: “Our transformation programme continues… we could see clearly as a result of that a change in the number of our overall headcount.”
Mr Bostock said the branch network is “always under review”.
He stressed there are no immediate plans or targets for closures.
“Should we make any decisions (on branch closures), we would always do it in a way that reflects guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority,” he said.
Slump in profits as pandemic hit
It came as the group posted a 44% slump in UK pre-tax profits to £552 million for 2020.
It booked a £448m hit for loan losses due to the pandemic.
The Covid-19 provisions sent total credit impairment losses surging to £645m for the year.
On an underlying basis, full-year profits fell 45% to £710m.
Santander set aside another £98m for expected loan losses in its fourth quarter. It saw underlying profits rise 4% quarter on quarter to £247m in the final three months of the year.
It marks a more resilient performance for the UK business than from its Spanish owner, Banco Santander, which slumped to the first ever annual loss in its 160-year history.
The wider group swung to a net loss of 8.77 billion euros (£7.7bn) after hefty writedowns due to the pandemic and restructuring costs.
Hopes UK growth will return
In the UK, the group gave a “cautious” outlook for the UK economy, though it expects growth to recover later in the year thanks to the vaccine rollout.
The economic bounce-back is set to help drive down defaults on loans from struggling households, it added.
Santander said it expects mortgage lending to rise by about 2% in 2021, but house prices to fall 2%.
Mr Bostock added: “Although Covid-19 materially impacted our results, the decisive actions we have taken have helped to deliver a very resilient performance despite the difficult environment.”
On the 2021 outlook, he said: “Our view is that the first half remains a difficult one. But we remain optimistic about the second half.”
The firm’s results show it saw a £4.4bn surge in net mortgage lending last year as the stamp duty holiday spurred on the housing market.
Customer deposits also rose £13.9bn to £191.7bn as households and businesses spent less due to coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions.