Banks close 1000 branches over two years

The RBS branch at North Castle Street which is set to close in June 2017.

The RBS branch at North Castle Street which is set to close in June 2017.

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More than 1000 high street bank branches have closed in the UK over the past two years as more customers go online and banking services are offered at Post Offices, research from Which? has found.

Across the UK, 1046 bank branches were shut or were set to close between January 2015 and the end of this month, according to the consumer group.

According to Which?, HSBC cut the most branches, at 321, equating to about a quarter of its network, followed by RBS Group, closing 191 branches, or ten per cent of its network.

It said Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, had shut 180 branches, or 14 per cent of its network.

Earlier this month, the Royal Bank of Scotland provoked anger across the Capital after announcing that it was to close half of its branches in Edinburgh, where its headquarters are based.

The rapid growth of customers going online to do their day-to-day banking is often given as a reason for closing branches.

Which? said it was told by HSBC that the number of visits to branches had fallen on average by 40 per cent in the past five years as customers moved to banking online. But Which? said that many of those who did not use online banking had poor broadband connections. It said bank branch closures often happened in rural areas with poor broadband speeds.

Peter Vicary-Smith, Which? chief executive officer, said: “Access to the services necessary to make everyday banking possible should be simple and straightforward.

“We’ve seen some good examples of banks acting responsibly and in the interest of local communities when they close branches.

“However, banks can and must do a better job of working with their customers to understand their needs and those of the local community, especially when they are making changes to the services they offer or closing branches.”

In November, banks promised to offer greater support and advice to customers faced with branch closures.

A review into the industry’s arrangements by Professor Russel Griggs found lenders could offer more support to customers on alternative ways to handle their finances.

A spokeswoman for the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) said: “Customers want convenient, round-the-clock banking, which has led to a digital revolution in the way they manage their money.

“This has had an inevitable impact on the use of bank branches, which has led to a number of branch closures.

“However, the decision to close a branch is never taken lightly.”

She said that as well as providing telephone, online and mobile banking, a number of banks have been working closely with the Post Office to make banking facilities available across the UK’s 11,000-plus Post Office branches.