UK banks' branch networks shrinking fast
High street banks in the U.K. have closed more than 1,000 branches in the past two years, according to the U.K.-based consumer group Which.
In all, 1,046 branches disappeared between January 2015 and January 2017, the organization said in a press release (see table).
Which said most banks cited the growth of online banking as the reason for closing branches. HSBC told Which the number of visits to branches had fallen 40 percent in the past five years as customers moved to banking online.
However, Which research showed regions with the most bank branch closures per 100,000 people — Wales, South West England and Scotland — all have extensive rural areas, often with poor broadband speed.
(Which has created an online map that shows areas where a high number of bank closures is coupled with poor broadband speed.)
The release stated the post office is serving as an alternative way for many consumers to access some everyday bank services. But while 72 percent of respondents reported a good or excellent experience with post office banking services, 41 percent were not aware such services were available.
Peter Vicary-Smith, CEO of Which, said in the release that banks should work to make consumer access to everyday banking services simple and straightforward.
"We've seen some good examples of banks acting responsibly and in the interest of local communities when they close branches," he said. "However, banks can and must do a better job of working with their customers to understand their needs and those of the local community, especially when they are making changes to the services they offer or closing branches."