As one door closes

Which? research finds that high street banks have closed more than 1,000 branches across the UK in the past two years as customers go online and banking services are offered at Post Offices.  

As the Griggs report finds that banks could do more to support local communities when they shut branches, new Which? research finds that 1,046 bank branches were shut between January 2015 and January 2017. HSBC has cut the most branches, closing 321 (a quarter of its network), followed by RBS Group, closing 191 branches (10% of its network) and Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland), closing 180 branches (14% of its network).

Most banks cite the growth of online banking as the reason for closing branches: HSBC told us the number of visits to branches had fallen on average by 40% in the past five years as customers moved to banking online. However,while 56% of adults used online banking last year, there are still around 20 million adults that don’t use it, and among them will be people who aren’t online and those with a poor broadband connection.

In the last two years, the Post Office has also offered an alternative for bank customers to access some everyday bank services. While 72% of the people we asked rated their experience of the Post Office as good or excellent, 41% said they didn’t realise that it offered banking services.

Which? believes that banks should consult with local communities before closing branches to ensure the needs of their customers are being met.

Peter Vicary-Smith, Which? Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Access to the services necessary to make everyday banking possible should be simple and straightforward. We’ve seen some good examples of banks acting responsibly and in the interest of local communities when they close branches. However, banks can and must do a better job of working with their customers to understand their needs and those of the local community, especially when they are making changes to the services they offer or closing branches.”

The regions with the most bank branch closures per 100,000 people are Wales, South West England and Scotland – all of which have extensive rural areas. Which? has created an online map that shows areas where a high number of bank closures is coupled with poor broadband speed.

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  1. Bank closure research: We compiled figures for branch closures since January 2015 by asking the major high street banks and by collecting statistics online. Which? found:

Bank

Closures (Jan 2015 to present)

Percentage of network

HSBC

321

27%

RBS

191

10%

Lloyds

180

14%

Barclays

132

8%

The Co-operative Bank

117

53%

Santander

87

8%

TSB

18

3%

  1. Online banking: http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/householdcharacteristics/homeinternetandsocialmediausage/bulletins/internetaccesshouseholdsandindividuals/2015-08-06

  2. Broadband access: Which? research recently found that three in 10 people were getting download speeds below 10MB per second. More on the research is available here – https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/broadband-now-seen-as-one-of-top-five-modern-day-essentials/

  3. Post Office research: In August 2016 and November 2016 we surveyed Which? Members about what they think about the Post Office. In August, we asked 1,023 members and in November we asked 3,044.

  4. Barnes Barclays closure: Barclays closed its branch in Barnes, south-west London, in November 2015. It was earmarked for closure after only 96 customers were found to be solely using the branch for their banking, while 49% of all its customers were using other nearby branches. Customers and a local campaign group gathered more than 3,000 signatures in protest against the closure, and the bank found the main concern was the loss of the cash machine, which would leave that part of the highstreet without one. The bank agreed to keep the cash machine up and running after the branch was shut.

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