More than 3,000 banks have closed down while others have reduced opening times
More than a third of UK banks have closed in the last five years while others have reduced their opening hours, a new report reveals.
Banks are shutting down branches at an “alarming rate”, with 3,303 bank closures between January 2015 and August 2019 – around 34% of the network, according consumer group Which?.
The overall branch network fell from 9,803 to 6,549 over this time.
The closures were primarily driven by the Big Four banks, with RBS Group cutting its network by 56%.
NatWest closed 638 branches over the past five years while Royal Bank of Scotland shut 412.
HSBC reduced its network by 442 branches and Barclays closed at least 481 branches – although Which? says Barclays did not share full closure information so the figure could be higher.
Lloyds Banking Group shut 404 branches (31%), while Bank of Scotland closed 95 branches and Halifax lost 70 branches.
Santander closed 294 branches, while Co-op closed 152 branches.
Of all the UK’s bank branches that remain open, 298 are now operating with reduced opening hours of four days a week or less.
Nationwide has retained 96% of its branches after pledging to keep its last branch in any town or city open until at least May 2021.
Closures have been most severe in rural areas, fuelling concerns about the impact on the elderly and the vulnerable.
There is now not a single bank branch in the entire Wentworth and Dearne constituency in Yorkshire, which has a population of 98,000.
North East Derbyshire and Stoke-on-Trent North both of which lost six branches
Central Devon saw an 81% reduction, losing 13 branches, while Carmarthen East and Dinefwr lost four-fifths (80%) of its network, with 12 branches having closed.
In some areas, banks are offering mobile branches but these rarely offer the full services of a dedicated branch and can leave customers struggling.
Which? recently wrote to the Chancellor Sajid Javid calling on the government to take action to guarantee people’s ability to access and pay with cash.
Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, says: “Banks are closing their branches at an alarming rate, which risks shutting many people out of vital financial services and affecting their ability to access their own cash.
“Bank branches play a crucial role within communities, serving consumers and businesses alike. The industry must ensure no-one is left behind by the digital transition and that when banks shut their doors they don’t shut their customers out of important banking services.”
According banking trade body UK Finance, 30% of the UK population is still not using online banking, making it harder for them to access cash when banks close.
A spokesman for UK Finance says: “Bank branches play an important role in the life of local communities and decisions to close them are never taken lightly.
"Research shows that consumers are increasingly choosing new ways to help them with their banking, using technology to check balances and make payments - or even speak to their bank 24/7.
"But technology is not for everyone and maintaining access to cash is vital to ensure no-one is left behind."