/ Money

Do you still need your local bank branch?

Bank signs

As talks take place about how to deal with closing bank branches, it might be wise to think about how you do your banking. Will you need to adjust your banking habits?

For many of us, a bank branch is part of the backbone of the local high street. My own beloved Deptford High Street has been the home of some of the banking industry’s biggest names over the years – along with what is surely South London’s greatest burger van.

But with changes to what we have regarded as ‘typical’ in high street life – the butcher, the baker etc – the local bank branch is now under threat. Back in 1990, there were 17,991 branches on the high streets. Over the years we’ve seen their numbers fall and by April 2015 another 142 will close, leaving just 9,081 in the UK. This will undoubtedly raise concerns for smaller communities who may lose their face-to-face banking service.

Vince Cable is currently in discussions with the banking industry and us at Which? about how best to manage the decline in branch banking. The question is, if branches close, how will people access physical banking services?

Changes in banking habits

It is undeniable that people use branches less, with some banks reporting footfall declines of up to 30% over four years. Lloyds for example gave up on its pledge to keep its branches open wherever it was the ‘last bank in town’, blaming a faster than expected fall in usage.

This is partly driven by developments in personal banking, such as telephone, online and mobile banking, which for many make the local branch less of a lifeline than it once was. Royal Bank of Scotland recently claimed that its most popular branch was the 7.15am to Paddington because so many people use its mobile banking app. Banks also point to the role of the Post Office in providing an alternative to branches.

Looking after all customers

Yet, there’s no denying that online and mobile alternatives aren’t for everyone, while the information provided by banks over the phone has repeatedly been shown to be patchy at best.

Inevitably, there will always be customers who want to do their banking face-to-face with many of those who value their local branch being people who simply aren’t comfortable conducting essential financial transactions online.

We don’t think banks should leave their customers high and dry when branches close. Banks must keep their promise to maintain vital banking services for all, particularly for the most vulnerable. We’ll continue to make sure your voices are heard by the Government, industry and regulator.

Do you still use your local branch? If it was to close, what alternative banking facility would you like to see?

Farhana M says:
4 March 2015

I have been locked out of many of my emails and facebook, etc accounts and am afraid that my concerns arent being received by the relevent websites/ they have so many clients they dont care although I have contacted them multiple times. I had also lost ALL my id for four months and my banks were telling me that I didnt exist until one kind helper assisted me out of that predicament, although I knew all my intricate bank histories.

I am a victim of severe stalking and dont know how to make facebook, msn outlook and gmail reinstate my acounts as the associated mobile number has been disconnected and EE didnt even receive my notice that I would stop paying as I have lost 43 mobiles and the sims for that one EE account. and EE are now saying I am in arrears and need to settle or go to court, As homeless its hard to keep proof of postage as I sent the notification letter of inability to pay by registered post in good time.

I am afraid my foto and id may be used without my knowledge on social accounts and need a way to close these accounts for good so they arent re-activated ever, or to have access, better as they have many proofs and letters etc to help my custody case with my sons with whom Iam hardly in contact and one is out of contact formonths and I am scared of his safety as he has been groomed by my adoptive and very abusive family.

I quote part of the article. I was reading it and thinking whether it should also be in do we trust businesses.

“British banks could be facing a critical security flaw in their online banking systems after researchers claimed hackers could bypass two-factor authentication at one of the country’s biggest banks.
Using the vulnerability, attackers would allegedly be able to access user accounts by targeting customers and workers at financial groups through phishing emails, which would deliver malware allowing attackers to infiltrate the bank’s networks by piggybacking off legitimate activity.
“Andrew Taylor, chief executive of security firm Bronzeye, which discovered the problem, told CBR that despite his company’s efforts to report the problem to the unnamed bank and the Financial Conduct Authority, a regulator, neither group was interested in pursuing the matter.
In a letter sent to the FCA back in July, and seen by CBR, the company detailed its meeting with the bank, in which they explained 47 vulnerabilities found on the bank’s IT systems, 22 of which were critical.
However the bank was not happy to have the problems demonstrated, explaining that the problems were out of bounds because they were linked to third party vendors, that investigating them could disrupt normal service, or that the bugs did not exist.”