NCB to close five more branches
Others to be reorganised into financial centres
National Commercial Bank (NCB) has spent the last six months reorganising some of its branches to take on heavier workloads while downgrading others to serve as banking agencies in the lead-up to the financial giant’s announcement Wednesday that it is closing another five branches.
NCB’s Hagley Park Road, Washington Boulevard, Oxford Road, and Cross Road branches, as well as the agent bank in Black River, St Elizabeth, are all on the chopping block from the bank’s network of 32 islandwide branches on the basis of high density and proximity.
The effective date for closure of the named branches is May 6, NCB said in an emailed advisory that it sent to customers on Wednesday.
However, the 24/7 bank and on-the-go areas, or ABMs, will remain in all the locations except Oxford Road, where usage is said to be relatively lower than most.
It marks the second consolidation exercise to be undertaken by the bank over the past two years. The previous exercise involved the closure of its Half Moon, Annotto Bay, and Chapelton locations in July 2020.
Two of the Kingston branches – Oxford Road and Hagley Road – are owned by NCB and will be up for sale.
The financial giant will discontinue lease arrangements for Washington Boulevard and Cross Roads, NCB’s assistant general manager with responsibility for marketing and communications, Sheree Martin, told The Gleaner.
NCB will reroute business from the Cross Roads branch to the Duke Street operations. Similarly, Hagley Park’s business will be shifted to NCB’s Half-Way-Tree branch. The accounts at Oxford Road and Washington Boulevard will fall under Knutsford Boulevard and Constant Spring Financial Centre, respectively.
“When you start to think about the proximity of branches, some of them are not justified. Additionally, customers can now bank anywhere, so they are not confined to a branch,” Martin said.
Amid the closures, NCB has incorporated in its operations a new banking model that it says is better designed to create greater internal efficiencies while responding to changing economic times and technological systems.
The restructuring could also be a cost-saving play for the NCB Financial Group, which made $19 billion in profit for FY 2021, the lowest earnings reported by Jamaica’s largest bank since 2017.
“We are trying to find that soft spot between physical and digital services. In coming to our decision, we looked at how customers are transacting, why they want to visit a branch and if they are actually visiting the branches,” Martin said.
In November, NCB began the implementation of its new branch model, which primarily sees the bank repurposing some of its branches into financial centres. Six branches have been resourced and renamed as financial centres: Fairview, Montego Bay; St Ann’s Bay, St Ann; May Pen, Clarendon; Mandeville; Constant Spring, St Andrew; and Duke Street, Kingston.
Each financial centre will have three or four branches reporting to them and will be staffed to suit the needs of the geographic clusters, meaning financial centres in areas with higher traffic will be staffed with more people.
Some 60 per cent of the staff to be affected by the branch closures will be reassigned duties at NCB’s remaining 27-branch network, Martin said. The other posts will be made redundant.
“We will be redeploying more than 60 per cent of the staff to other locations, whether in head office in the branches or assigning them to the financial centres,” Martin told The Gleaner.
Accompanying the revised branch model is the introduction of appointment scheduling, a feature NCB had been quietly testing in two of its financial centres since December, for full roll-out in all the centres come June.
The system requires clients to indicate when and why they are visiting the branch before providing clients with information on expected wait times. NCB itself has been using the system to collect data on how to resource its locations with optimal staffing to ensure faster in-branch service.
“Think of these financial centres as a hub. So you will be staffed to deal with personal-banking needs, wealth-management services, business banking, investments, corporate commercial lending, and so on. All of our services will be housed in each of these six financial centres,” Martin said.