In a recent announcement, four major banks in the UK have declared plans to shutter an additional 36 bank branches, further impacting financial inclusion, especially for the aged.
In a recent announcement, four major banks in the UK have declared plans to shutter an additional 36 bank branches, further impacting financial inclusion, especially for the aged. Lloyds, NatWest, Halifax, and The Bank of Scotland are all taking the decision to close multiple branches across the country, adding to the growing trend of bank closures in recent years.
Lloyds is set to close 18 branches, while NatWest will be closing just one. Halifax will be shutting down 15 banks across England and Scotland, and The Bank of Scotland will close two branches in Scotland. The closure process is scheduled to commence in 2024, with the first branches closing their doors in January. Banks say that this has been driven by a swift uptick in online and mobile banking and a steep decline in the traffic at physical bank branches.
Not a new phenomenon
This wave of closures is part of an ongoing digitalisation trend, as an increasing number of customers opt for online banking services, prompting banks to rethink the necessity of maintaining physical branches. According to consumer watchdog Which?, banks and building societies have either closed or are planning to close over 5,800 branches since January 2015, equating to an average closure rate of approximately 54 branches per month. Among the regions most affected by branch closures are the South East of England, London, and the North West.
In response to the closures, the banks emphasised their commitment to supporting customers’ new and changing banking needs. A spokesperson for NatWest explained that, as with many industries, most customers are shifting to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives. They claim to understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and when they close branches, they will make sure that no client is left behind.
Importantly, all of the branch closures have been assessed according to the Access to Banking Standard and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines, with efforts made to ensure that affected customers have access to alternative banking services, such as Post Offices and nearby ATMs. The closure of bank branches has still raised concerns among some, particularly the Unite union, which considers access to physical banks and cash to be fundamental needs for the British public. Additionally, worries persist about the impact on elderly and vulnerable individuals who rely on High Street banks.
This latest announcement adds to the growing list of closures that have occurred since 2015, amounting to thousands of branches across the UK. While the banking sector continues to move towards digital solutions, the challenge remains to balance the convenience of online services with the importance of maintaining accessibility for all members of the community. The coming years will likely see further transformations in the UK’s banking sector as it adapts to changing customer preferences and technological advancements.