About 80 UK bank branch closures have been announced in the past week, with Lloyds and NatWest banks joining Barclays in shuttering high street operations.
All three banks cited the migration of customers to digital channels as the reason for closing their physical presence.
A Lloyds Bank spokesperson said: “Our customers are increasingly using digital channels to manage their money – we now have over 20 million regular digital users, so it’s important we continue to develop the online services our customers want to use.”
NatWest said its decision was the result of a decrease in counter transactions between 2019 and 2022, with more people choosing to bank online.
After announcing 14 closures last week, a Barclays spokesperson said: “As visits to branches continue to fall, we need to adapt to provide the best service for all our customers.”
Lloyds Banking Group is shutting 26 Lloyds, nine Halifax and four Bank of Scotland sites. Meanwhile, 40 NatWest and two RBS branches are going.
Which? said by the end of 2023, NatWest Group will have closed a total of 1,299 branches, Lloyds Banking Group 1,007 and Barclays 1,029.
According to recent figures from consumer rights champion Which?, banks and building societies have closed or scheduled the closure of over 5,500 branches since January 2015. Closures reached their peak in 2017, when 867 sites in the UK were closed. In 2019, 444 branches shut their doors for good, while 2020 saw 369 cut from branch networks, as several banks shelved plans due to the pandemic. In 2021, a total of 735 were closed, followed by 662 last year.
In December 2021, Which? called for a pause in bank branch closures amid fears that people could be left without easy access to cash and services.
Banks are looking at ways to assuage people’s fears of losing access to physical banking services through tech-driven pilots of mobile physical services.
In January, Barclays launched a project to create “banking pods” where banking services can be accessed. The bank describes the banking pods as “purpose-built, semi-permanent structures in sites such as shopping centres and retail parks”. It said at least 10 would be set up in the UK by this summer. To reach customers in remote locations, it also plans for six more electric vehicle banking vans to be added to its existing fleet of 10.
Last month, TSB said it was piloting its own banking pods, which will offer banking services in shopping centres and provide an alternative source of banking services as more bank branches close.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: “Access to cash remains absolutely vital for those who rely on it to pay for everyday essentials and use it to keep track of their spending as the cost of living crisis goes on. However, banks continue to close hundreds of branches, making it harder for people to deposit and withdraw their hard-earned cash.
She added: “The introduction of shared banking hubs may well be part of the solution to protect access to cash, but these must be rolled out in much larger numbers and far more quickly in order for people to feel their benefits. Such proposals must be backed up by proposals in the Government’s Financial Services Bill which should be amended to guarantee minimum levels of free access to cash so that people don’t have to pay to access their own money.”