BANKING giant Virgin Money has shelved plans to axe around 500 jobs and shut or merge more than 50 branches across the UK due to the coronavirus crisis.
The high street lending giant said it was halting the changes announced in February to bring together the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank brands with Virgin Money.
It had been due to close 22 branches and consolidate another 30 while also rebranding the entire network as Virgin Money by October 2020.
It comes after Lloyds Banking Group last week halted plans to cut around 780 jobs and suspended negotiations with unions over more role reductions amid the outbreak.
Virgin Money – formerly known as CYBG – said it would now not be going ahead with the measures “until further notice”.
Lucy Dimes, group business transformation officer at Virgin Money UK, said: “Our primary focus is on supporting our customers and protecting our colleagues during this challenging time.
“As a result of the impact of coronavirus in the UK, we have decided not to proceed with the integration changes we announced in February.”
Virgin Money’s job cut reversal will come as a welcome relief to its workforce, though it is likely to be only a temporary reprieve.
The group has previously warned around 16% of the combined workforce will go due to the £1.7 billion takeover of Virgin Money.
The Bank of England has asked banks and building societies to keep branches open wherever possible amid the lockdown.
But many major banks and building societies are temporarily reducing their opening hours or shutting branches as coronavirus spreads.
Social distancing measures are also being imposed in branches to help limit the spread of Covid-19.
Among the branches being closed temporarily are Halifax outlets in Pudsey and Batley and Lloyds and HSBC’s Brighouse branches.
Lloyds, HSBC, Yorkshire Bank, Nationwide, Santander and Halifax said branches are currently open between 10am and 2pm Monday to Friday, NatWests are open from 10am to 1pm, Barclays 9.30am or 10am until 3pm, Cooperative Bank 10am-3pm, Yorkshire Building Society 9.30am-2.30pm.
Banks and building societies are encouraging their customers to use apps and go online instead of visiting branches during the coronavirus lockdown.
A dedicated telephone service for over-70s has been set up for customers of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland.
Lloyds Banking Group, which owns all of these banks, said that because its phone lines are busy, it has introduced a new service for those over 70.
The dedicated line has been set up to help those who need support the most, the bank said, and it is including the number in letters and emails being sent out to customers.
The group is writing to over three million customers to explain the support available, including a guide on how best to manage their money and stay safe from fraud.
As well as the over-70s, it is also identifying any other customers who may need extra support, such as NHS workers, or those who have previously told their bank that they have specific needs because of a vulnerability.
It is also explaining to people who do not bank digitally and cannot leave the house that they can ask a trusted person to visit a branch with ID such as a passport or photo driving licence.
The branch will then phone the customer to make sure they know this person and agree that they can act on their behalf. Lloyds said it will need a valid phone number on record to do this. As an additional security measure, withdrawals will be capped at £100.