One third fewer banks but much more online banking

The consumerbody Which? has just published its​ latest findings on bank branch closures.

Banks and building societies closed a total of 3,312 branches between January 2015 and August 2019, with an average of 55 closing each month. A further 100 branches are scheduled to close before the end of this year. The RBS Group, which comprises of NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank, closed 1,094 branches during the period. Lloyds Banking Group, made up of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, shut down 569 sites.

Bank branch closures reached their peak in 2017, with 868 sites lost around the UK at a rate of more than 70 a month. Similarly, some 794 branches closed in 2018. In the first seven months of 2019, the rate slowed, with 325 branches closed. This puts the current year on a similar footing to 2015 and 2016, when between 600 and 700 branches were lost.

UK Finance, the trade body that represents banks, reports a steep rise in the use of online and mobile banking over the past few years. Seventy one percent of adults used online banking in 2017, representing 38 million people. Almost 22 million people used mobile banking apps. Meanwhile, the average branch received 104 visits a day in 2017, compared to 140 per day in 2012. This represents a 26 percent fall in bank branch visits. According to banks and building societies, this has been the main driver of closures.

Which? points out that there are still plenty of people and small businesses that rely on local banks, who either do not want to or cannot engage with the digital revolution. This is particularly challenging in rural areas, where people suffer with poor broadband and mobile coverage, and higher populations of elderly customers.


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