HSBC to close more than 50 branches across the UK – full list
It means more than 5,000 big name banks have disappeared from Britain’s battered high streets since 2015 leaving millions without access to cash. Experts said permanently pulling the shutters down will further marginalise the elderly and vulnerable and could even be a clear case of discrimination triggering legal action.
Former Pensions Minister and older people’s champion Ros Altmann, 66, said: “The announcement of further major bank branch closures is the latest lamentable example of financial firms riding roughshod over the interests and needs of loyal, long-standing customers.
“Although we live in an increasingly digital age, not everyone has a smartphone, computer or iPad for online banking. The elderly and the poorest or disabled people do not use technology.
“Discriminating against vulnerable groups should not be acceptable. Instead of prioritising profit, companies should consider customer needs as a whole by reappraising further branch closures.”
The disturbing trend of closures – accelerated by Covid – has seen all major institutions close branches at an alarming rate, leaving millions of customers high and dry.
This year the fallout from the pandemic has been extreme. Analysis by cash machine network Link revealed a further 226 branches are set to shut by the end of the year, bringing the total for 2022 to 325 – close to one every day.
A separate analysis by consumer champion Which? found there are just 5,154 high street banks left in the UK, down from 9,807 in 2015.
It follows similar moves by Barclays, Lloyds, TSB, Halifax, Santander and Virgin Money.
The decision comes as the industry accelerates its march to fully online and app-first banking
Lloyds Banking Group – handed £20.3 billion in a taxpayer-funded bailout after the financial crisis and once 43 percent owned by the public – plans to close 66 branches by January, 48 Lloyds sites and 18 Halifax branches, as face-to-face banking becomes increasingly difficult.
The decision to shut lifeline branches – for decades a permanent fixture of British high streets – comes as the industry accelerates its march to fully online and app-first banking, leaving those unable to navigate technology helpless.
The move – opposed by campaigners fighting for the elderly and vulnerable who make up the vast proportion of in-branch customers – comes as the Daily Express continues to fight for the appointment of a dedicated champion for the elderly.
Some 13 million OAPs are still without a voice in government as a perfect storm of a rapidly ageing population, deepening cost of living crisis, and financial pressure on crucial services isolates a large chunk of Britain.
Experts remain baffled why no effective representation exists for the UK’s growing elderly population when it has an army of social mobility commissioners.
In September, days before she became Prime Minister and as Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss made seven new appointments to The Social Mobility Commission, which exists to help create a country where the circumstances of someone’s birth do not determine their outcomes in life. No such framework is available for OAPs, despite the fact that by 2030 more than 20 percent of the population will be aged 65 and over.
Forecasts show the number of people aged 85 and over in Britain was 1.7 million in 2020 (equal to 2.5 percent of the population). This is expected to almost double to 3.1 million by 2045 (4.3 percent of the population).
Government figures show nearly everyone under age 55, but only just over half of over-65s, now owns a smartphone, while more than two million over-70s do not access the internet. It means a huge chuck of customers are unable to access or use online banking services.
Baroness Altmann, who backs the Express campaign for the appointment of an Older People’s Tsar, added: “Many older people are tech-savvy and adaptable, but millions are not and never will be – they need to visit their bank in person.
“More branch closures mean more people cut-off from the main means of managing their finances. Of course, fewer people visit their branch, but that does not mean firms should feel entitled to exclude older customers who cannot manage the lower-cost, higher-profit ways of working which best suit the banks.
“This could even amount to age discrimination.
“Even if more of us can manage modern, paperless, cashless, people-less processes, the elderly really value simple human contact. They need to see someone in their bank, especially when automated telephone or online helplines seem designed to make it as difficult as possible to reach an actual person or receive timely service.
“This is not older people resisting change – they have embraced advances all their lives. But many older people, not without good reason, do not trust banks and technology and need the traditional service.”
The doors will start shutting at HSBC branches from April 18 with its long presence in Blandford Forum, Dorset; Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex; Abergavenny, Monmouthshire; Cromer, Norfolk; St Ives, Cambridgeshire; and St Austell, Cornwall all closing for good.
Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann
HSBC, once known as “the world’s bank” and which trousered £15.7 billion in profits last year, blamed a sharp fall in the number of customers visiting branches, claiming over the past five years, use by regular customers had fallen by 65 percent. Some are now serving less than 250 customers a week.
Rocio Concha, of Which?, said: “The decision by HSBC to close a quarter of its bank branch network, after already shutting more than 600 sites since 2015, risks further cutting adrift those who rely on cash – whether it’s to pay everyday essentials or increasingly to manage their finances during the cost of living crisis.
“While proposals put forward by the banking industry to offer alternative access to cash could have an important role to play, what’s needed most is long-awaited legislation to guarantee access to cash, giving the Financial Conduct Authority the powers to oversee the cash system.
“What is currently missing from the legislation is a requirement that access to cash is free. MPs should vote to support a cross-party amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill to ensure a minimum level of access to free cash for those who use it, including people on low incomes who will struggle to pay to access their own money.”
Unite union officer Dominic Hook said: “Unite is appalled there will be a further 114 bank branch closures by HSBC. This hugely profitable financial institution is walking away from the customers and communities who most need access to local banking services.
“Unite is calling on HSBC to reconsider these branch closures during the consultation process before they abandon the most vulnerable in our society and leave them without a neighbourhood bank served by experienced knowledgeable staff. Of the total 114 closures proposed the vast majority will result in no HSBC branch within three miles and it is disgraceful that 25 communities will be left to travel over 15 miles to the nearest.
”Without any corporate social responsibility to require banks to stay on our high streets to help the elderly, disabled or vulnerable, then access to cash and banking will be lost forever.”
HSBC said it would invest millions updating and improving its remaining network, which will total 327 once the cull is complete.
Jackie Uhi, managing director of UK distribution, said: “People are changing the way they bank and footfall in many branches is at an all-time low, with no signs of it returning. Banking remotely is becoming the norm for the vast majority of us.
“The decision to close a branch is never easy or taken lightly, especially if we are the last branch in an area, so we’ve invested heavily in our ‘post-closure’ strategy, including providing free tablet devices to selected branch customers who do not already have a device to bank digitally, alongside one-to-one coaching to help them migrate to digital banking.”
A UK Finance spokesman said: “While many customers are opting to use mobile and online banking to manage their money, the banking industry is committed to ensuring that people can do their banking face to face too. Whenever a bank branch closes, LINK independently assesses the local community’s cash access needs and will commission any new services required, which can include a banking hub. 29 hubs have been announced so far and the industry is fully behind getting these up and running as quickly as possible. In addition, customers can do their day to day banking at thousands of Post Offices across the country.”
Leeds suburb left with nearly no branches
The bustling Leeds suburb of Horsforth once claimed to be England’s largest village and its 22,000 residents were served by several banks. But over 18 months branches of Lloyds, Santander, Virgin and Barclays have all shut up shop, writes Paul Jeeves.
It followed the closure of Bank of Scotland and NatWest, which left HSBC and Halifax as the last survivors on the high street. But on Wednesday it was confirmed the HSBC branch will also close.
It means people will now have to travel seven miles into Leeds city centre if they need to visit their bank. The move is even more devastating because Horsforth is home to a large community of retired people, families and also boasts a thriving small business sector.
However, the closure of three post office branches have also hit hard and, despite offering basic banking services, lengthy queues outside the final remaining post office still open make it difficult for working people to use it during their lunch breaks.
Halifax, despite being a partner organisation, says it is unable to conduct Lloyds transactions in their branch. Resident Kate Hill said: “It is really difficult for people that we have lost all the banks, particularly older people who like to conduct their business in-person and are worried about doing their finances online because of the amount of criminals attempting to scam them.”
Councillor Emmie Bromley added: “It’s really frustrating and sad to see our local area lose yet another banking facility that our residents rely on.
“Elderly, those with a disability or anyone that struggles with the online system at times will find this a real blow to accessing their finances.”
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Comment by Ros Altmann – Former Pensions Minister
Further major bank branch closures is the latest lamentable example of financial firms riding roughshod over the interests and needs of loyal customers.
Although we live in an increasingly digital age, not everyone has a smartphone, computer or iPad for online banking. The elderly and the poorest or disabled people do not use technology.
Physically, they may not have the dexterity, financially they cannot manage the costs of IT infrastructure and many older people never had the chance to get used to technology.
Many older people are tech-savvy and adaptable, but millions are not and never will be – they need to visit their bank in person.
More branch closures mean more people cut off from the main means of managing their finances.
Of course, fewer people visit their branch, but that does not mean firms should feel entitled to exclude older customers who can’t manage the lower-cost, higher-profit ways of working that best suit the banks.
This could even amount to age discrimination.
Government figures show that nearly everyone under the age of 55, but only just over half of over-65s, own a smartphone. And more than two million over-70s do not access the internet.
Even if more of us can manage modern, paperless, cashless, people-less processes, the elderly really value simple human contacts.
They need to see someone in their bank, especially when automated telephone or online helplines seem designed to make it as difficult as possible to reach an actual person or receive timely service.
This is not older people resisting change – they have embraced advances all their lives.
But many older people, not without good reason, do not trust banks and technology and need the traditional service.
Discriminating against vulnerable groups should not be acceptable.
Instead of prioritising profit, companies should consider customer needs as a whole by reappraising further branch closures.