THE Royal Bank of Scotland is slashing 550 jobs and replacing some face-to-face advisers with an automated system in a round of cost-cutting.

The high street lender said 220 staff would be shed from its investment advice team as part of a shake-up, which will see face-to-face advice only offered to customers investing £250,000 or more.

The bank said it will also scale back its protection business to a telephone-only service, triggering the loss of 250 jobs from its protection products team.

The overhaul comes after changes to financial services and pension regulation hit demand for investment advice, while its protection team has suffered from a “gradual decline” in customers.

The job losses will have an impact on branches across the country, with about 80 administration roles also being lost in the changes, RBS said.

The bank – which is 73 per cent owned by the taxpayer and recently racked up its eighth consecutive year of annual losses – said the new system will mean customers with £500 or more to invest will now be able to access an online investing platform.

Its announcement follows the publication of an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into the market for financial advice, which stated that automated services – or “robo-advice” – can deliver a “cost-effective” service.

As part of the Financial Advice Market Review, the FCA said it would launch a unit to help firms develop more automated advice models.

Speaking about the changes to the bank, a spokesman for RBS said: “The demand for face-to-face investment advice is changing. Our customers increasingly want to bank with us using digital technology.

“As a result, we are scaling back our face-to-face advisers and significantly investing in an online investing platform that enables us to help a new group of customers with as little as £500 to invest.”

He added: “Due to the gradual decline in the number of customers in our protection business, this service will now be available over the telephone.”

At least three more high street banks are thought to be planning to launch similar services.

Most banks scaled down their financial advice services in 2013, when a review by the regulator made it impractical for them to provide cost-effective help to most consumers.

RBS posted a deficit of £2 billion when it announced its annual results in February, down on the £3.5bn reported a year earlier.

Earlier this month, the bank announced it was rolling out an artificial intelligence system to help tackle backlogs of customer inquiries.

After a two-month trial of an advanced artificial intelligence system called Luvo it was rolled out to support employees.

The system answers RBS employees’ questions through webchat, filtering them in a split second before responding.

Luvo is unique in that a “warm” personality has been created for it, making it approachable and creative as it uses intuition and reasoning when answering questions.

RBS plans to pilot Luvo’s ability to answer questions direct from customers, which could free up staff to answer more complex customer problems.

However, the system – which can help staff answer customer questions more quickly by supplying “huge amounts of information’’ in seconds – will not lead to job losses, the bank insisted.