More than 200 high street bank branches across the country are the ‘last in town’, figures reveal.
Following an alarming rate of branch closures – and with 100 more due before next year – MPs wrote to the major banks to find out how many they have left.
The high street giants were also asked to reveal how many of these branches are the last remaining bank in town amid concerns that vulnerable customers and small businesses face being left without access to cash.
Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax, has the largest number of branches at 1,567
NatWest said 60 per cent of its retail customers now exclusively use digital channels
The six largest banks and the country’s biggest building society Nationwide have 5,069 branches left between them, of which 213 are the last in town.
Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax, has the largest number of branches at 1,567 and more than half of the total number of last-in-town banks at 118.
NatWest has 833 branches, of which 46 are in communities where the nearest alternative is a mile and a half or more away.
Barclays did not reveal how many of its 738 branches are the last in town, while HSBC, Santander and TSB have 19 between them. Nationwide has 643 branches and 30 are the last in town.
All the banks blamed branch closures on the rise of online banking. They said this had led to a drop in footfall and they needed to prioritise investment in digital services. In his response, HSBC boss Ian Stuart said the number of customers using its branches had fallen by almost 40 per cent in the past five years.
He added nine in ten interactions with customers take place via telephone, internet or smartphone, while 99 per cent of cash withdrawals are at an ATM.
Matt Hammerstein, chief executive of Barclays UK, said fewer than 10 per cent of all transactions take place inside a branch, while NatWest said 60 per cent of its retail customers now exclusively use digital channels.
Lloyds said the pandemic had accelerated the trend towards online banking. But experts warn millions who do not use the internet are at risk of being left behind.
Natalie Ceeney, of the Access to Cash Review, said: ‘There are lots of people who no longer use cash or visit bank branches but there are more than five million people that rely on cash and where bank branches are vital.’
Barclays did not reveal how many of its 738 branches are the last in town, while HSBC, Santander and TSB have 19 between them
Mel Stride MP, chairman of the Treasury committee, said: ‘For many – particularly small businesses, the elderly and vulnerable – access to a bank branch is vital to accessing cash.
‘While it is encouraging the high street banks have engaged so positively with the committee, we note there are over 200 “last in town” bank branches across the country.
‘We are concerned that should these close, vital access to cash and banking services will be out of reach for many communities.’
The City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority is reportedly considering new rules to prevent banks from closing branches to protect access to cash. Banks could be fined or blocked from shutting their doors.
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