/ Money

Does your local area have adequate banking services?

Closed-down bank branch

Our recent research has found that the major banks have closed over 1,000 branches since 2015. But what happens if you aren’t happy to bank online and your nearest branch is miles away?

Supermarket self-service machines. Online holiday bookings and internet shopping. It can sometimes seem that technology advances so quickly nowadays that you’ve barely got the hang of one thing before itself becomes outdated and replaced by something else.

Well, what about those people who value the human touch?

Branch closures

For years now, the newspapers have been filled with stories of banks closing huge swathes of its branch network as more and more of us use our smartphones, tablets or computers to do our banking instead.

We wanted to find out just what impact these closures have had. An investigation led by our money team found that the major banks have closed 1,046 branches since the beginning of 2015.

Sarah Coomber-Smith knows the pain of losing a local branch only too well:

‘Due to the closure of our local HSBC, we now have to travel 24 miles on a round-trip to our nearest branch. Paying in through the Post Office is just not what we expect from our bank because we cannot talk to anyone. Why don’t all the banks get together and have one building in each town where they either all have a desk or at the very least one day a week where THEY are open for THEIR long-suffering customers. This would cut their supposed overheads and create more customer satisfaction. It is a nightmare trying to ring our bank when there is a problem – it is just not good enough.’

Online banking

Our findings are not all that surprising. The banks have been open enough to admit that closures are taking place with the change in the way the public access banking services – through the internet – playing a significant role in the declining numbers popping into their branch.

Indeed, HSBC told us that on average it had seen a 40% drop in footfall in the past five years. And in 2014, RBS said its most popular branch was the 7.01am Reading to London Paddington train, as commuters check their balance and transfer money all via their handset while they’re travelling on it.

But what about those who don’t want to carry out important transactions on their phone? How about those who value having a member of staff to discuss their finances? And what about local business who rely on their branch to pay in their takings every day?

As Nicholas Heins says:

‘Banks are providing a so-called service which suits them and their share holders, not what many of their customers need. Branches are moving further and further away from many customers – this particularly hits the elderly and small businesses. They say you can use post offices, but many of them are also closing. You try and speak to a local branch on the phone – it is all centralised and robotic, no such thing as a personal service nowadays and loyalty is not rewarded but has become a dirty word.’

While it’s understandable that banks are having to take a commercial decision over what branches are closed and which are given a stay of execution, surely they must make sure adequate services remain in place for those who do want the human touch and aren’t comfortable with online banking?

Do you think banks have been too hasty in cutting such a large number of branches, or is it an inevitable consequence of customers turning to online banking?


I suggest that the banks get together and provide a shared banking service.

Apart from visiting my bank a couple of times to set up a large payment, the only times I have visited my bank in the past year have been to deposit cheques, sometimes just posting them through the letterbox. I would be happy to use an ATM to do this if the facility was provided. I do appreciate that some people want to keep their bank branch and my branch is usually busy when I have been into it or walked past.

Years ago we had a shared branch at the university campus where I worked and that was very popular.


The Post Office offer basic services to customers of most of the major banks. Encouraging customers to use them for deposits, withdrawals and so on not only helps the banking customers but also keeps the post offices viable in less commercially-attractive areas.

The Nationwide is a highly rated building society/bank, mutual, lots of branches that have been maintained. So if you don’t like what your existing bank is doing, open an account with them. It is inevitable that as fewer customers use branches it will be uneconomic to keep so many open.


As Malcolm says, the Post Office provides basic services. Here are the details: http://www.postoffice.co.uk/branch-banking-services Our village Post Office is open daily and on Saturday mornings. I know that some village halls operate a Post Office service at least once a week.

Patricia Harrill says:
24 December 2016

I do bank with Nationwide, but not only have they closed the branch in the nearest town (6 miles), but when they bought out another building society in the town, they closed that branch too!

Stuart L says:
25 December 2016

Nationwide took over the Derbyshire Building Society – a local society that had a branch in each large suburb and village, and in every town. Nationwide has closed all but two them – even leaving towns like Belper (the third largest and fastest growing town in Derbyshire) and Bakewell without access – although both do still have a couple of banks. Now we have to travel six miles to our nearest branch. Yes, internet banking and the ‘hole in the wall’ does obviate some need for branches, but when there is a problem or you need to pay in – especially coins – a long journey is inevitable. The banks (AND Building Societies) MUST stop and think again. Shared facilities, part-time branches in stores, mobile banks should all be on the agenda.


The fun part of this is really how you cost matters out to prove something is unprofitable.

Why do people not go into shops/banks so much? Because the staff are either poor in knowledge or charm, or they do not have any power to do anything, or are understaffed.

We went to a local Lloyds Branch to add a name to an acount. We were told that only one person could do that and she was away, could we come back later in the week. Alternatively we could do it on-line. Well that proved to be a lie there is no on-line facility.

As to adding the name to an account. Opened 40 years near enough with one signatory and adding a spouse. A more straightforward case it would be hard to conjure up.

So de-skill the staff and then moan that no one comes in. There is no reason to go in. I believe of course that at some stage there will be a major outage and cash and cheques will be/ or have been the fail-safe for the economy.

I suppose most of you have read this week how Microsoft has been knocking people and businesses off-line with a duff forced up-grade. Think how much worse it might have been if some one deliberately ramped up a botched up-date.


“Why do people not go into shops/banks so much? Because the staff are either poor in knowledge or charm, or they do not have any power to do anything, or are understaffed.” Maybe for some, but I just find online banking more convenient. I have not had any problem with banks, though it was a bit of a nuisance when branches used to close at 15.30.


I rest my case. A retired person believes that on-line banking is better than humans who are articualte, intelligent, and well-trained who could pretty much deal with any service the Bank offered.

Now lets talk about the people who avoided loads of Bank charges because the staff took them in hand and trained them to be more responsible. There was always a hardcore of less than 5% who one would get rid of as they were simply not interested.

I make a distinction here about the elderly and the slightly slow where we could graduate the approach so they could still feel in control. Try to get a computer with that finesse.

I fear for these people in the future.