News & Views - Savantor

The Pace of Evolution

Wednesday, 09 April 2014
In the past two weeks, RBS has announced the closure of 44 of its bank branches, citing a 30% fall in in-store transactions over the past few years as the reason. This is the latest in a number of banks taking the decision to reduce their bank branches services; Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks are to close 28 branches over the next nine months and in November, Barclays confirmed plans to cut 1700 customer-facing jobs from its branch network in 2014. Customers’ needs and banking behaviour is changing at an ever-increasing pace and the actions by the banks are reflecting these changes. The reduction in front-line services is counter-balanced by an increase in investment in mobile banking and technology. According to the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), in a single year the number of mobile phone banking transactions has doubled, reaching 18.6 million a week in 2013. This is a much faster take-up than internet banking experienced in the last decade. The Chief Executive of the BBA has described branch usage as being in “seismic decline”. Similarly to RBS, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks have said that branch use has fallen by 30% in the past three years, while internet and mobile banking has risen 40%. Last week it was announced that the UK’s first ‘digital-only’ bank is to be launched next year. The bank – called Atom – will not have any bank branches or telephone banking services available to customers. A full range of personal and business banking products will be managed by customers through the internet and mobile apps instead. This year the service Paym is being launched, which will enable customers of most Banks to send and receive payments securely using just a mobile number. Whilst there is always likely to be a need for customer-facing banking services such as mortgages and other major financial decisions, personal banking can undoubtedly move away from the bank branch concept – for the majority of the population. There is also a generational aspect which needs to be considered; whilst the majority of younger people use technology for not just banking but in many aspects of their daily lives, older generations are not necessarily so comfortable with it and do not always have the tools or skills to use it. In 2009 the Payments Council set a target date of October 2018 to close the central cheque clearing system, but scrapped the plans two years later following a public outcry. Nevertheless, the general pace of evolution in banking practices can be seen to be gathering momentum, boding for exciting changes ahead. On this basis, 2014 looks to be a year of revolutionary change in the industry!
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