By Saikat Chatterjee and Lawrence White

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Nationwide Building Society has offered redundancy packages to around 200 staff with a view to around 100 accepting the offers, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The bellwether mortgage lender, which has around 17,000 staff, is hoping enough of them will volunteer for the redundancy programme, otherwise it will begin making layoffs early next year, the source said on condition of anonymity.

“As a result of the low interest rate environment and the impact of COVID-19, we are currently consulting on potential redundancies with a number of individuals,” a spokeswoman for the lender said. She did not comment on how many staff would be affected in this first round of cuts.

No one will be required to leave the firm before 2021, the spokeswoman added, following a previous pledge the lender made to avoid compulsory redundancies this year.

Nationwide, which competes with high street lenders such as Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays but is owned by its customers rather than shareholders, in May reported its annual profits nearly halved in the last financial year.

While Nationwide said last month it was still offering better savings rates than its competitors, it has had to reduce that margin as the economic impact of the virus begins to bite.

(Reporting By Saikat Chatterjee and Lawrence White; editing by Karin Strohecker and Barbara Lewis)