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Banking hubs can solve problem of mass branch closures.

By Anna Tickle and Research & Campaigns team

mature person
In-person banking still works for many citizens.

Banking hubs offer a practical solution to a growing problem in financial services.

Mass bank closures pose a huge risk to older and vulnerable customers. Shared high street sites, funded jointly, and serviced by the leading lenders seem to be the perfect answer.  

In recent years bank branches have been disappearing from high streets at an alarming rate. Since January 2015, banks and building societies have closed nearly 6000 branches; that’s over 50 a month. Lenders say demand for physical branches has fallen as more customers turn to online and mobile banking.

Losing access

This is happening across the country for understandable commercial reasons. Understandable it may be, but a lot customers do still rely on local branches. Losing access can be challenging for older or vulnerable people who value direct help with managing their money.

In Epsom & Ewell we are fortunate in retaining a broad selection of bank and building society branches. Yet Surrey is not exempt. Only last week Surrey Live reported the imminent closure of the last branch in Cobham.

It’s true Post Offices offer an alternative to customers who don’t want or can’t bank online. But demand for their services is already high and other options must be available. With banks certain to continue closing branches, banking hubs are the obvious solution. But to have a significant impact, they should open faster and in all regions.

Still matters to millions
What are hubs?

Cash Access UK*, a non-profit owned by the banking industry, is opening them across the UK in response to continuing demand for in-person banking,. They aim to provide a convenient, sustainable, shared solution that brings Post Office cash services and community bankers together in one place.

Hubs work in a similar way to traditional banks. Customers can carry out basic services, such as deposits, withdrawals and paying bills, whilst also having access to face-to-face support in designated private spaces. The hubs are shared by the banks, operating on a weekly rota. From Monday to Friday, there is a different representative from each big bank or building society that used to operate locally.

Welcome regulation
Cash point
Not just a convenient option

In response to branch closures earlier this month the Financial Conduct Authority published “proposals for how we support access to cash in an increasingly digital world. Find out more and respond to our consultation paper.” We welcome this recognition by the financial regulator that the easy availability of cash and traditional banking services are still important to many citizens. Not just

Online and mobile banking will soon provide most services most conveniently to most people with busy lifestyles. But it’s worth remembering that actual physical branches with actual people offer their own value and unique advantages including: protection from fraud, face-to-face guidance and financial advice.

Citizens Advice supports innovation and business efforts to increase efficiency and productivity. Helping everyone go digital has obvious benefits to all in the medium term. Meanwhile we will also advocate strongly for financial companies and all service providers to understand and prevent digital exclusion.

* Cash Access UK.
A not-for-profit company established by ten major high street banking providers. We provide cash and basic banking services in communities across the UK. These include shared Banking Hubs and deposit services, but we’re also working with suppliers to test brand new services so we can meet a wider range of needs over time.
“Cash is still important to millions of people in the UK. Between 5 and 6 million adults say they rely on cash in their day-to-day lives. Digital or online solutions don’t yet work for everyone all the time. We’ve found that Banking Hubs and other services can make a real difference to individuals, small businesses and the communities they live in. This is why we’ll be working with hundreds of communities to meet their cash and basic banking needs.”
More here

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