News & Views - Savantor

Banking role for Post Office branches

Thursday, 16 February 2017

There has been more news this month about forthcoming bank branch closures: HSBC has announced that it is to shut 62 of its branches as the final part of a "restructuring" programme which has seen the bank close more than a quarter of its UK sites in the last two years.

Lloyds has already announced that it plans to speed up its closure programme in 2017, closing about 200 branches.

The key high street banks – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander – have closed 1,7000 branches in the past five years and there are likely to be more closures. The result of this is that about 1,500 communities and small towns no longer have a bank in the high street.

Whilst the reasons are understandable in business and productivity terms – cost of maintaining branches compared to online banking; reduced footfall in high street banks; increase in online banking usage – there is a wider consideration to the argument. Figures produced by Which? show that whilst 56% of adults used online banking last year, there are still 20 million adults who either don't or can't use it. Many of these have a poor broadband connection and the areas most affected by closures - South West England, Wales and Scotland - are predominantly rural and often with unreliable connectivity.

Aside from which there are times when it is incredibly helpful to be able to visit a branch in person and talk to a real person about an issue. Doing the rounds of call centre menus by phone is sometimes not enough to deal with some issues as well as being incredibly frustrating and at times a fruitless task.

Thus the latest initiative to enable Post Office branches to handle banking transactions sounds like a positive move, whereby the Post Office will be able to handle transactions for multiple high street banks from the same location. Whilst Post Office closure is also acknowledged to be an issue, the proposed new programme may well help in preventing further closures to be announced.

In this digital age of electronic banking, it should not be forgotten that there are times when face to face dealings are desirable if not essential. The new Post Office initiative may help to continue providing a worthy banking service within today’s constraints of a reducing customer footfall in branches and a necessity to cut costs.

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