Economy

Banks set for more branch closures after big HSBC cull

Banks plan for more branch closures after major HSBC culling: determination to cut costs and bully customers into going online on high streets

Mass branch closures will continue next year as the big banks cut costs and bully customers into going online. It will leave hundreds of cities bankless as alternative banking arrangements such as shared branches – banking hubs – are not opening fast enough.

This is the view of banking experts following HSBC’s decision to cut nearly a quarter of its branch network. Some 114 high street sites will close from April next year, with HSBC saying the move is in response to remote banking ‘becoming the norm’. This is in addition to the 69 closures announced in March and now implemented.

HSBC’s branch culling means the big banks have confirmed 617 closures this year – with Santander closing five the day before HSBC’s announcement, closing one day later nationwide and Barclays closing 11 on Friday.

Under the microscope: HSBC says remote banking is ‘becoming the norm’

The number of closures is consistent with a February forecast from a leading banking expert involved in providing high street banking services.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday at the time, they warned that between 700 and 800 branches would be culled this year, stating: ‘There will be a lot of disappointed small businesses and angry branch dependent customers once branch closures start to kick in. announced.’

On Friday, in the wake of HSBC’s decision, the same expert told the MoS that further closures were a “given.”

They added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if 617 has grown to over 800 by the end of the year. Another 800 closures cannot be ruled out next year.” The source added: “It’s a disgrace, especially given the government’s decision to lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses – and its refusal to heed calls to hit the banks with a windfall tax.”

Lloyds, which has announced 136 closures this year, is the largest bank with more than 1,000 branches across its major brands: Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Lloyds. On Friday it said it would continue to adapt its branch network in response to changing customer behavior. NatWest said the same.

Derek French, a longtime campaigner for banking hubs, believes that major banking brands such as Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest are unlikely to each retain more than 400 branches, mostly in major cities.

French says that as the closures continue and more cities lose their last bank, it is essential that banking hubs are established in these communities. Hubs are operated by the Post Office and provide basic banking services and access to major bank staff on specific days. But, says French, their current rollout is “at a snail’s pace compared to the pace of branch closures.”

Bank hubs are funded by the banks, but so far only three of the 29 proposed hubs have come off the ground. On Friday, John Howells, head of ATM network Link – an organization critical to deciding where to locate hubs – told the MoS: “The rollout of hubs has started just in time. The vital communities must not be left without access to banking services.’

Natalie Ceeney, responsible for the introduction of hubs, said: “Setting up these hubs takes time, especially when banks join forces to share new infrastructure. This year we laid the groundwork to roll out hubs. When these are in place, we can scale and streamline delivery – and we look forward to opening many more hubs in 2023.”

Tulip Siddiq, shadow economy minister of the Treasury, said: ‘The closures of HSBC are worrying. The elderly, the poorest and the most vulnerable rely on bank branches for personal financial advice and support.’

She added: “It is inevitable that payment and banking systems will continue to innovate, but the Conservatives’ failure to protect these services threatens to cut millions of people off from essential services, such as making and receiving payments or help with a loan.

“We need to ensure that face-to-face services are protected, whether they are delivered through hubs or other models of community provision.”

Labor has tabled amendments to legislation on the issue currently being considered by parliament.

OneBanx has opened a number of simple banking kiosks, mainly in Co-op stores, where people can get cash and deposit money without being charged. It is currently raising money through crowdfunding site Crowdcube to expand its network.

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Jacky

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