Ad description

A TV, radio and a press ad for Nationwide seen and heard in October and November 2023:

a. The TV ad opened with a shot of a building called “A.N.Y. BANK”. The following scene within an office in the building featured two colleagues in a conversational exchange. The first individual said, “Anyway cutbacks, initial thoughts, downsizing, I could make do with this office here I suppose, but that big space downstairs is? A bit over indulgent nowadays isn’t it?” The other individual then replied, “By downstairs do you mean, closing the actual branch?” The first individual then agreed before the second individual replied, “But Nationwide aren’t.” The first individual then said, “But we’re not Nationwide are we, we’re nothing like them” before he went on to make further comments about their branch and customers whilst on-screen text stated, “Publicly shared branch closures at Lloyds, bank of Scotland/Halifax, Natwest, Barclays, Santander and HSBC”.

The exchange was followed by a shot of a Nationwide branch with a voice-over that stated, “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches.” On-screen text stated “Visit Valid until 2026.”

b. The radio ad featured a conversational exchange between two colleagues. One individual said, “Boss, news from Nationwide” to which the other replied, “Ugh what are they doing now?” The first individual then said, “They’ve just confirmed they’re keeping branches open” and the second individual responded with a laugh before he said, “What nonsense, who needs a branch?” A voice-over then said, “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches. Nationwide, a good way to bank. To view our branch promise search”

c. The press ad featured text that stated, “Going, Going, Nowhere” below further text which stated, “Unlike the big banks, we’re not closing our branches”. Small print at the bottom of the ad stated “If we have a branch in your town or city, we’ll still be there until at least 2026. Big banks: Lloyds, Bank of Scotland/Halifax, Natwest, Barclays, Santander and HSBC. Source:”.


282 complainants, including Santander, who understood that Nationwide had recently closed or reduced opening hours at a number of branches, challenged whether the ads were misleading.


Nationwide said they were different from other large financial institutions because they were a mutual society that was owned by their members, all of whom had a mortgage, saving or current account with them. They explained that they were committed to maintaining their branch network, and that was different to their competitors. They also highlighted that their intended target audience for the ad had been their existing current and savings account holders. They said they had previously launched a Branch Promise in 2019 not to leave a town or city where there wasn’t another Nationwide branch in place and said that they had strengthened that Branch Promise in 2023. The 2023 Branch Promise, to which the claims related, guaranteed Nationwide would not close any of their branches until at least 2026. They highlighted the new promise in which they committed to not close any branch, irrespective of location, until at least 2026. They said at the time the ad was seen the Branch Promise information on their website had not been updated to reflect their new 2023 promise.

In relation to the claims in the ads, they explained that they had used the present tense, rather than the past tense, to indicate that their Branch Promise referred to future branch closures and believed that consumers would interpret the claims as future facing. They clarified that the Branch Promise specifically committed them to not close branches anywhere until 2026, unless it was outside of their control; for example, a landlord’s termination of their lease or redevelopment of a branch site. They acknowledged that, had their advertising appeared immediately after a significant number of closures, that the ads may have been misleading by omission. However, they clarified that their most recent branch closure had been in April 2023, approximately six months before the ad campaign started, and therefore did not believe the claims were misleading.

They said that banks, having carried out a large-scale programme of branch closures over the past ten years, this was also relevant information in the context of consumers’ likely interpretation of the ad. They provided two tables showing the number of bank branch closures and the percentage of branch estates closed over a ten-year period from 2013 to 2023. They said that of the ten banks listed in the tables, Nationwide had the largest remaining number of branches and had closed the smallest percentage of its estate. Furthermore, they supplied a full list of branches that had been closed in the previous 18 months, which detailed that they had closed 20 branches in the last 18 months, with two closed in 2023. They explained that those closures fell within the exclusions listed in their previous 2019 Branch Promise. In addition, they provided data that showed publicly announced future bank closures including those planned by Barclays, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Natwest. They said that, of the UK’s 10 major financial institutions, they were the only one to commit to not close branches between now and 2026. They also supplied an article from consumer magazine Which?, that recommended Nationwide as a building society for consumers who still valued face-to-face contact. They considered that bank branch closures were felt most by vulnerable customers and highlighted that Nationwide was now the last branch in 85 towns in Britain.

As an alternative to closing branches, Nationwide said they had trialled reduced opening hours in 88 branches, which they had converted to Multi-Skilled Branches (MSBs). They believed that, for vulnerable customers, it was vital to keep branches open and that customers would rather adapt to revised opening hours than a branch closure. They supplied research which demonstrated that the impact of converting branches to MSBs was minimal. The MSB branches were fully operational three or four days a week depending on the number of days they had previously been open and on branch closure days, their staff worked in central customer contact roles. In any case, they asserted that the claims in the ads were specifically about branch closures and were not promises to maintain branch opening hours. They explained that the Financial Conduct Authority distinguished between reductions in hours that might have a significant impact on their customers’ ability to access branch services as opposed to reductions that had a less significant impact, and they said their research showed that MSBs did not have a significant impact on their customers. Therefore, they did not consider that reduced opening hours were an omission from their advertising that could be considered misleading.

Clearcast said they had discussed the claims and substantiation provided by Nationwide thoroughly. Nationwide provided them with substation that showed comparative data related to the closure of branches from relevant banks. According to that data, Nationwide had the highest number of physical branches that would remain open. They also received an assurance from Nationwide that supported their 2023 ‘Branch Promise’. They believed that, even though Nationwide had closed branches in the past, that did not invalidate their current intention.

They highlighted that the ad contained superimposed text that qualified which banks were included in the comparison and signposted viewers to Nationwide’s website where details of the Branch Promise were provided. Therefore, along with Nationwide’s assurance of no further closures, they were confident that the claims made were accurate, supported and appropriately qualified.

Radiocentre said they had seen the advertiser’s response and fully endorsed the points made. They said prior to broadcast of the ad, they had reviewed the evidence and were satisfied the content of the radio ads would not mislead.



The ads were seen in the context of financial institutions closing their high street branches, and the ASA considered consumers would interpret the ads in relation to that scenario.

We considered that ad (a), the TV ad, satirised the decision-making process taken by banks in relation to closing their branches, and contrasted that with Nationwide’s approach, through the portrayal of a senior manager at an unknown bank showing indifference to the effect on customers of branches closing. We considered that the line “But we’re not Nationwide are we, we’re nothing like them” alongside the statement “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches” was likely to be seen by viewers as suggesting that Nationwide had taken a decision to keep their branches open because of an understanding of the benefits for customers.

Ad (b), the radio ad, featured a similar exchange between the senior manager and his assistant, and included the line “Unlike the big banks we’re not closing our branches. Nationwide, a good way to bank”. We considered listeners were also likely to understand from that ad that Nationwide had made a decision to keep their branches open. Ad (c), the press ad, contained large headline text stating “Going, going nowhere” and again stated “Unlike the big banks, we’re not closing our branches”. We considered consumers would understand the ad to be giving the same suggestion about branches remaining open as ads (a) and (b).

We considered that switching accounts was something that consumers were unlikely to do regularly, and when choosing a bank or building society, consumers were likely to understand claims about decisions not to close branches to relate to the long-term. Whilst we acknowledged that Nationwide’s intended target audience of the ad were their existing account holders, we considered that both consumers who were currently with Nationwide and those who were not would be interested in the claims made in the ads.

Ads (a) and (c) included qualifications that referred to the fact that the ‘Branch Promise’ would be in place until at least 2026, with both ads including references to Santander as a comparative ‘Big bank’. Whilst the qualifications in ads (a) and (c) included the date from which Nationwide could commence closing branches, we considered that they were likely to be missed because of the way they had been presented. We also understood that in the 12 months prior to the ad campaign, Santander had closed fewer branches than Nationwide and at the time the ad was seen Santander had not announced that they would be closing branches in the future, based on the information presented on the webpages linked to in the ads. Therefore, whilst we considered the qualifications would be likely to be missed, for consumers who had seen them, the qualifications would be likely to mislead consumers specifically in relation to the comparison with Santander. Ad (b) included no such qualification and therefore it would not be clear from that ad that the Branch Promise was valid until 2026. Had the timeframe been made clearer in the ads, we considered that would likely have overridden the impression that the Branch Promise related to the longer term.

We acknowledged that over a ten-year period, in comparison to other financial institutions, Nationwide had closed the smallest percentage of any financial institution’s estate. However, we noted that they had nevertheless closed 20% of their estate, which equated to 152 branches, and we considered that was a significant number that had been permanently closed. We also understood that since Nationwide had launched their original Branch Promise, in the 18 months since July 2022, they had permanently closed 20 branches. Of those 20, 14 had been closed in the 12 months preceding the campaign, with two of them having been closed in 2023.

As above, we understood that Nationwide’s Branch Promise was only valid until 2026, at which time Nationwide could begin to close branches permanently. We considered those factors relating to previous, recent branch closures and the effect on future branches in the long term were likely to be significant to consumers when making decisions about whether to choose Nationwide, in the context of the claims made in the ads that Nationwide were not closing their branches.

Because we considered that consumers would understand from the ads that Nationwide would not be closing branches in the long-term future and that they had not recently closed branches, we concluded that the ads were misleading.

Ads (a) and (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 (Misleading advertising) 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.10 (Qualification).

Ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.9 (Qualification).


The ad must not appear again in their current form. We told Nationwide Building Society not to mislead in relation to the closure of their branches.


3.1     3.10     3.2     3.9     3.1     3.3     3.7     3.9    

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.3     3.7     3.9    

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