BANKS and building society branches are closing at an “alarming” rate of nearly 60 per month, according to Which?.
The consumer group said analysis showed that between the start of 2015 and the end of 2018, 2,868 branches have closed or are scheduled to do so – averaging just under 60 per month.
Which? said branch closures have been accelerating. It said so far this year 670 branches have closed or been scheduled for closure – putting 2018 on course to overtake the number of closures in 2017, when 879 branches were shut.
Which? said that while mobile banking trucks may visit towns and villages, they are not as convenient as a dedicated bank branch.
Meanwhile mobile banking apps are not suitable for everyone’s needs, it said, and do not always give people easy access to their accounts, as TSB’s recent IT meltdown has shown.
Which? collected bank branch closure data by tracking closure announcements.
Its analysis found that of the branch closures it looked at, NatWest has closed the most, with 638 having shut, or being scheduled to close by the end of 2018.
This was followed by HSBC (440), Lloyds (366) and RBS (350).
Looking at where bank branch closures have or are taking place, Which? said Scotland has been particularly badly hit, with 368 branches having shut since 2015, or being scheduled to close by the end of 2018.
Which? Money expert Gareth Shaw said: “Bank branch closures are happening at an alarming rate – with almost 60 shutting every month – stripping customers and communities of access to the financial services they need.
“While the decision is clearly a commercial one for a bank to take, it is also crucial that banks do recognise the needs of their customers and the communities they serve, before simply shutting their doors – and their customers out.”
Which? has created a bank branch closure tool to help people find out if their local bank branch has closed in 2018 at www.which.co.uk/static/tools/new-reviews/bank-closures/bank-closures.html.
Here is a regional breakdown of the bank branch closures, or scheduled closures, in the Which? analysis:
– East, 221
– East Midlands, 165
– London, 288
– North East, 81
– North West, 353
– Northern Ireland, 44
– Scotland, 368
– South East, 361
– South West, 327
– Wales, 200
– West Midlands, 208
– Yorkshire and the Humber, 252