A new report on banking published this week suggests that the day of the bank branch is coming to an end. But as we look set to lose half of the nation’s branches, can we really say we’ll miss them?
The report from Jones Lang LaSalle predicts that ‘the age of the big branch legacy network in developed world countries is drawing to a close… as many as 50% of branches in networks may be declared obsolete in their current form by the decade’s end’.
The reasons behind the dramatic number of bank branch closures are varied, but internet banking is at the top of the list. After all, if you bank online, do you really need a branch in the high street? In which case, does it matter if they’re sold off to pizza chains or coffee shops (as so many seem to have been)?
Cutting back branches
In the UK, we’ve already seen a significant number of branch closures. They’ve been happening for years and look certain to continue. The Campaign for Banking Services, which has been monitoring the decline, predicts that the total number of branches in the UK will fall from 9,550 today to 8,000 in 2018.
Although several banks such as Barclays, LloydsTSB and RBS have promised not to close the ‘last bank in town’ (or at least within four miles of it), HSBC has not joined them and is expected to close at least 47 branches this year.
Which? Conversation commenter Pickle told us she was sold on the value of bank branches:
‘My high street branch is VITAL. Internet banking is all very well, but has its snags – what if my internet service goes down, what if my computer packs up, what if I have a power cut?’
New branches growing
In London and the South East, new banks such as Metro are bucking the trend by opening extra branches. But what about the rest of the country? For me, Marks and Spencer seems to be the shape of things to come, as it recently announced plans to open 50 in-store banks over the next two years.
Commenter William admitted he wasn’t convinced:
‘Well I for one won’t be tempted to switch to an M&S bank as I don’t see it as being any different from all the rest. Having a bank effectively split, I can foresee emails exchanges along the lines of “it’s not our problem”, “oh yes it is”, “oh no its not”, and the only loser in that scenario is the customer.’
The Co-operative Bank is another provider that’s expanding. Having announced a deal with LloydsTSB to take over 630 of its branches, it will soon have 10% of the UK market (900 branches).
Bashing banks is an easy sport, but I have to admit I’d be sorry if high street branches totally disappeared! But would you miss your local branch? Is it within easy walking distance? And when was the last time you visited?