The voluntary pledges by 3 of the Big 4 to keep open the ‘last bank in town’ protected 70% of sole bank communities more than 1 mile from an alternative bank but were cancelled in 2014.during which 124 ‘last banks’ were closed with 177 more in course this year. Currently most impacted by closures are ‘market’ towns/ rural hubs and seaside/retirement communities in England & Wales and secondary urban areas: all of which lose retail turnover as well as banking convenience, .
From May 1 2015 an agreement between the banking industry and government introduced an Access to Banking Protocol which recognised the banks’ inalienable right to close branches but imposed obligations on them to engage with communities on post closure provision. Post office outlets are the industry’s and government’s only alternative but at the time of publishing this report the situation is deemed by many to be unsatisfactory. The industry has continued to decline to pursue neutral shared use branches (community banks and banking centres), an operationally proven alternative to the post office ‘solution’ which could offer a cost effective way to sustain a branch presence in larger bankless communities, extend coverage and, elsewhere, to significantly reduce banks’ operating costs whilst affording opportunities to improve the government’s objectives to open up retail banking competition.
Neither Santander, TSB nor new entrants like Metro, Handelsbanken UK and Virgin seem interested in filling the voids being created by the Big 4’s closures.