Bank and building society branches are disappearing from our high streets at a rate of 60 a month, according to a new report by Which? Money.
Its research has shown that 2,868 branches have closed their doors since 2015 or will do by the end of the year. The rate of closures is also accelerating.
Josh Robbins, of Which?, said: “Coupled with a marked decline in ATM numbers across the country, bank branch closures are having a particularly devastating impact on the 2.7 million adults who almost entirely rely on cash in their day-to-day lives.
“There were 879 bank closures last year, up from 630 in 2016. We fear that this year could be worse still as some 670 branches have already closed, or been announced to close, by June.”
Banks with the biggest numbers of closures are:
- RBS, which will close 350 of its own branches in 2015-2018, as well as 638 NatWest branches and 35 Ulster Bank branches
- Lloyds, which is closing 366 of its own branches, 87 Bank of Scotland branches and 55 Halifax branches
- HSBC, which will close 440.
Taken by region, Scotland has been the worst hit with 368 branches due to having shut by the end of the year. Next in line was the South East with 361, the North West with 353 and the South West with 327.
Gareth Shaw, of Which?, commented: “While the decision is clearly a commercial one for a bank to take, it is also crucial that banks do recognise the needs of their customers and the communities they serve, before simply shutting their doors – and their customers out.”
Banks have blamed the rise in popularity of online and mobile banking for the branch closures. They say their customers no longer use branch services in the same way, preferring the convenience of being able to carry out most tasks 24/7 at a time convenient to them.
A spokesman for RBS, which has just announced the closure of a further 162 branches, said: “Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period.
“As customers continue to change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them, so we are investing in our branches and re-shaping our network, replacing traditional bricks and mortar branches with alternative ways to bank.”
But Which? argue that not everyone wants to bank online and links to the Post Office and mobile banking trucks don’t offer the same range of services or convenience as a normal branch does.
Experts believe the branch closures, coupled with the closure of ATM machines across the country, is depriving customers of many essential services.
“There were 879 bank closures last year, up from 630 in 2016. We fear that this year could be worse still as some 670 branches have already closed, or been announced to close, by June”