Hundreds more bank branches set to disappear

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Hundreds more bank branches set to disappear as lenders seek to shift their customers online

Royal Bank of Scotland boss Alison Rose has said she will need to make ‘tough choices’

Hundreds of bank branches are set to close this year as lenders seek to shift their customers online.

In a bitter blow to many who rely on their local branch, Britain’s biggest banks are expected to continue to shut sites. Troubled lender TSB has already announced it will shutter 82 branches in 2020 and new Royal Bank of Scotland boss Alison Rose has said she will need to make ‘tough choices’.

Lloyds was last year accused of trying to hide the scale of its closures, as it shut locations in dribs and drabs, and has not ruled out further cuts. HSBC has said it has no more closures planned after slashing 444 branches in five years. But the former chief executive of Barclays, Antony Jenkins, has predicted that bank branches will be obsolete ‘in a few years’ time’.

Critics have branded the closures ‘outrageous’ at a time when some towns and villages have been left with no access to basic financial services.

High Street lenders axed 405 branches last year, taking the total over the last five years to 3,372.

The UK has now lost more than a third of its bank branches since the beginning of 2015, and has 6,430 left.

Gareth Shaw of Which? said: ‘Bank branches play a crucial role within communities, serving consumers and businesses alike. 

The industry must ensure no-one is left behind by the digital transition and that when banks shut their doors they don’t shut their customers out of important banking services.’

Lenders say that customers prefer online banking. But the push has left less tech-savvy users wide open to fraud.

Caroline Abrahams, a director at charity Age UK, said: ‘The scale of the cull has been extremely damaging for many communities and a serious blow for the millions of older people who rely on them.

‘It is outrageous that banks are continuing to close local branches without putting viable alternatives in place for their older and more vulnerable customers.

‘Banks must start thinking more strategically about how they can support all of their customers.’

 

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