Scotland business

Last branches of Airdrie Savings Bank close

Airdrie Savings Bank exterior Image copyright Airdrie Savings Bank
Image caption Airdrie Savings Bank's head office will remain open until September

The last two branches of Britain's only independent savings bank are due to close their doors for the last time.

Airdrie Savings Bank announced in January it was preparing to end all business activities.

The bank was founded in 1835 and ran out of a church and then two Airdrie shops until its first branch was opened in 1883.

But the bank said changes since the 2008 financial crisis had made it too difficult for it to survive.

At its peak, there were eight branches of the bank across North Lanarkshire, but five had closed even before January's announcement.

The Bellshill and Coatbridge branches will close on Friday and the bank will stop operating its current accounts.

'Critical challenge'

The Airdrie HQ will be staffed until September to advise savers who have not already moved their money.

Rod Ashley, who has been the bank's chief executive for four years, told BBC Scotland: "The changes to banking that had happened as a result of the financial crisis back in 2008 have meant that the landscape's completely changed.

"The interest rate environment being particularly low means that savings banks find it very difficult to make the margin in order to survive.

"You really need to be bigger and have a bit of scale in order to generate sufficient revenue in order to survive now and, to an extent, that was a critical challenge that we faced at the bank."

Mr Ashley said the bank had worked through a "number of plans", but now had no option but to close.

Banking historian Prof Charles Munn said the closure of the UK's last independent savings bank represented the "end of an era".

'Courageous decisions'

"For people of my generation it was a very clear part of their Scottish culture," he said. "As soon as you were born your father opened an account for you in a Scottish savings bank."

Prof Munn, who has written a book about the bank, said Airdrie managed to resist the temptation to merge with other small banks in the 1970s and remain independent.

"Some fairly courageous decisions were made in the 1970s and 80s to stay away from that," he said.

"At that time... that looked to be the right decision to make because it had kept the bank independent.

"Gradually the few other banks disappeared either through merger or otherwise leaving Airdie really to be the only independent savings bank in the UK."

It it thought that 70 jobs are likely to be lost because of the closures.

Mr Ashley added: "This has been a particularly difficult time for the customers and the staff at the bank.

"It's been sad and that's the overwhelming emotion that's come through - that it's a sadness that the institution is in the case of winding down but understanding of the reasons why we've had to come to that decision."

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