Britain’s banks are closing at a rate of almost 60 branches each month, a consumer group has found, stripping vital services away from communities.
According to research from Which, a total 2, 868 bank branches have been closed or are scheduled to in the three years since 2015.
The rate of closures has also accelerated since 2016, the consumer group found. So far in 2018, 670 have been closed or scheduled for closure, putting this year on course to overtake the 879 closed in 2017.
A picture of bank closures since 2015
? Most closures: NatWest (638)
? Most losses: Scotland (368)
? Closures so far in 2018 : 670
? Predicted closures 2015-2018: 2, 868
NatWest has closed more branches than any other bank, shutting the doors of 638 branches since 2015. HSBC came in second, with 440 gone by the end of 2018, with Lloyds (366) and Royal Bank of Scotland (350) following.
Communities in Scotland have been hit hardest by bank closures, with 368 branches lost in the past three years. Regions across England were also significantly affected. By the end of 2018, the South East?(361), the North West (353) and South West (327) will all have reduced access to banks.
Widespread closure of bank branches has hit the small business community at the same time the free-to-use ATM network is facing severe cuts.
According to Which, the combination of branch and machine closures could leave the 2.7m people almost entirely reliant on cash without convenient access to their preferred payment method.
Commenting on the scale of closures, Which? money expert, Gareth Shaw, said: Bank branch closures are happening at an alarming rate with almost 60 shutting every month stripping customers and communities of access to the financial services they need.
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.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has previously warned that the rate of bank closures risks wiping out access tovital one-to-one financial supportforbritain’s small firms.
While banks have invested further into online banking and pointed customers towards post offices for financial services, FSB chairman, Mike Cherry, rejected the model as sufficient.
almost all of our members are using online banking. However, small firms still hugely value the in-person support they receive at branches, particularly when it comes to completing complex transactions and making big financial decisions. For many, these are relationships that have built up over years, Cherry explained.
Which? created an online tool to help people check upcoming branch closures in their local area.
What are the banks saying?
Lloyds Group told Which? it was continuing to invest in its branch network and was committed to maintaining its market share of branches.
Nationwide said the majority of changes across its network had been to integrate branches in areas where two existed within close proximity.
Meanwhile, HSBC said its branch closures reflected shifts in customer behaviour, with more and more transactions made over digital channels.