Man details how he was a victim of mobile banking fraud
Lloyds said yesterday 40 more will be closed soon – but MPs insist face-to-face services are an “essential lifeline”. They claim bosses are deserting the areas that most need banks.
Tory MP Alexander Stafford said: “It is an absolute disgrace – Lloyds has a duty of care.”
The Daily Express is today launching a crusade to Save Our High Street Banks before it is too late for the remaining few.
Industry analysts overwhelmingly believe that in-person banking will be gone by 2027.
Mr Stafford, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, criticized the bankers’ widespread closure policy.
He said: “It is an absolute disgrace that they are cutting this essential lifeline off from our streets with such little care.
“Lloyds has a duty of care to the local community, and this will further damage high streets and local businesses.” The MP added: “I urge them to rethink their decision, and help support great British high streets.”
Lloyds said 40 more will be closed soon
Bank branch closures have increased dramatically in recent years as many customers move to handling their finances online.
But the switch is having a devastating impact on many older users and on small businesses which are still part of the cash society.
Lord Foulkes, the co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Age and Older People, said that “urgent action” is needed to “stop this and make banks return to serving the public rather than maximizing their profits.”
Bank closures have risen from a trickle to a flood. Coupled with the removal of ATMs resulting in increased reliance on internet banking makes access to cash difficult, if not impossible, for older people.
“The Government needs to take urgent action to stop this.”
A survey of global banking executives carried out by researchers at the Economist Intelligence Unit and Swiss banking platform Temenos revealed that 70 percent of them believe that the branch-based model of operating will be dead by 2027.
Lloyds Banking Group yesterday announced the closure of 18 Halifax sites and of 22 Lloyds branches – all but one of which are in England – between April and June.
Its spokesman said: “Branches play an important part in our strategy, but we need to have them in the right places, where they are well used.
“We’ll continue to invest in branches that are being used regularly alongside our online, mobile app, and telephone services.”
The announcement follows the news that nine TSB sites are to be shut down this year. Meanwhile, Barclays has earmarked 15 sites for the chop – making a total of 64 closures unveiled in just the first three weeks of 2023.
Figures show that the number of Big Six bank branches – including Lloyds, NatWest, Barclays, HSBC, TSB, and RBS – has fallen every year since 2015.
Banks and building societies closed 5,391 branches between January 2015 and this month at a rate of around 54 each month, according to tracking data from consumer group Which? The NatWest Group – NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Ulster Bank – will have closed 1,234 branches by the end of the year, the most of any banking business.
Barclays has 987 branches closed
Lloyds Banking Group – Lloyds, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland – has closed 917 sites, rising to 928 this year.
Barclays is the individual bank that has reduced its network the most with 987 branches closed, or scheduled to close, by the end of 2023.
Already hundreds of towns are without a bank, and cash machines are vanishing at a frightening rate too.
Towns and cities where branches have shut recently include Marlow, Bucks; Saxmundham, Suffolk; Bromley, South-east London; Haslemere in Surrey, and Aberdeen.
Which? analysts warned ministers in 2022 that another year of inaction might lead to a collapse of the UK’s cash system. The consumer group said almost a quarter of free ATMs have disappeared since 2018.
Face-to-face banking could be extinct soon
Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said that access to face-to-face banking was becoming more and more restricted.
She added: “With swathes of local branches closing and others adopting reduced hours, it’s creating real problems for older people who are unwilling or unable to bank online, or who would simply like the choice of being able to walk into a bank and talk to someone if they have a query.
Having often been loyal bank customers for many years, older people are entitled to feel aggrieved that a normal part of their everyday life – the opportunity to visit their local bank – is disappearing for commercial reasons, when it would be much easier for them if it was to remain.”
Scott Dixon, of The Complaints Resolver website, said: “We need public pressure now and a concerted effort by consumers and the Financial Conduct Authority to convince banks that they need to provide a physical presence and service to all of their customers.
“Unless they re-invigorate branches and start offering services again, traditional banks could render themselves increasingly obsolete.”
A NatWest spokesperson said: “Most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.
“We understand and recognize that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation and that when we close branches, we have to make sure that no one is left behind. We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online.
“So we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”
Barclays said: “Customers’ behavior has changed significantly, with the majority choosing online banking. We are closing less well-used branches while investing in brilliant customer service and digital technology. We are maintaining a community presence with alternative options.
“This includes our network of Barclays Local sites in libraries and community centres, bank pods and mobile vans, our cashback-without-purchase service, shared banking hubs and everyday banking at the Post Office.”
Customers shift to use online banking
Lloyds and Halifax have revealed that between them, they are to close 59 bank branches this year.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but these further closures mean Lloyds will have cut its entire network by over half, and Halifax by around a quarter, since 2015.
The seemingly constant flow of bank closure announcements these days means most of us are familiar with the arguments firms put forward in their defense.
These are commercial decisions. Fewer people use cash, opting instead for contactless payments – a trend that only sped up during the pandemic.
Which? doesn’t dispute those points. Our defense of cash and opposition to branch closures isn’t about halting the march of progress.
Contactless is an incredibly convenient way to pay for millions. But there remains a significant minority of consumers who do rely on cash, as well as face-to-face banking services – and they are at risk of being cut further adrift.
From small business owners to those in rural communities; from people on lower incomes to those with disabilities – cash enables people not only to pay for everyday essentials, but to help manage their finances.
The ability to budget is now even more important during the cost-of-living crisis. This significant minority of the population must have their needs protected.
Initiatives to provide alternatives to shuttered branches, such as enhanced Post Offices or shared banking hubs, do not come close to filling the gaps left. And these proposals are voluntary, which means banks could withdraw support whenever they like.
Long-awaited legislation to protect access to cash is currently going through Parliament and will involve the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) becoming the lead regulator to oversee the UK’s access to cash.
Under new plans, the FCA will ensure reasonable levels of access and that’s hugely important. But new laws risk being undermined unless minimum levels of free access to cash are guaranteed, so that people don’t have to pay just to access their own money.
Closed bank branches aren’t just eyesores on the high street – they are boarded-up barriers to some of the most vulnerable people in our society accessing their money and vital in-person services.
The latest batch of closures will be keenly felt by their local communities.
New laws to protect cash cannot come soon enough.