NORTHERN Rock customers laid siege to the Cardiff branch early today as fears grew over its future.
The bank’s Cardiff branch has been inundated with people withdrawing their savings after it approached the Bank of England for an emergency loan last week.
Branches across the UK opened an hour earlier and will close an hour later at 6pm today to cope with demand from people wanting to withdraw savings.
Customer Anne Kersey, 48, a job-seeker from Llanrumney, Cardiff, was outside the branch in the capital’s Windsor Place, off Queen Street, before 9am today.
She said: “I’m here because I’m worried about my mortgage.
“If the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are on TV assuring people, why aren’t people believing them?
“There’s no trust anymore. Politicians come and go but this is our lives we’re talking about.”
People from as far away as Cardigan and Usk travelled to the Cardiff outlet.
But Walter May, 51, a customer from Llandenny, near Usk, said staff in Cardiff told him he would have to go to England to withdraw his money because he had an internet account.
Walter, a company director, said: “It’s so annoying – they’re just telling me they can’t help me. I just want to get at my money but they’re telling me I would have to drive to their branches in Reading or Birmingham.
“My parents died last year and the small amount of money I inherited I put in an internet savings account. They worked very hard to leave me this money, I’m not going to see it go to waste.”
It is believed about £2bn in savings has been withdrawn from Northern Rock since Thursday.
The bank has agreed emergency funding with the Bank of England to help it through a short-term liquidity problem but speculation is mounting the bank could be sold off. Its shares fell 32 per cent on Friday.
The Chancellor Alistair Darling and Callum McCarthy, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, have tried to calm fears.
Mr McCarthy said: “If we believed Northern Rock was not solvent, we would not have allowed it to remain open for business.
“It is open and can continue to receive deposits and allow customers to make withdrawals.”
The bank’s chief executive Adam Applegarth admitted it faced a “hard slog” to rebuild its brand following the last few days’ events.