High Street banks have closed HALF of their branches since 2015

EXCLUSIVE Revealed: Five biggest High Street banks have closed more than HALF of their branches since 2015 with HSBC topping the list after axing 69% of their sites

  • The UK’s five biggest banks have closed half of their branches since 2015
  • A turn to digital banking has seen physical banks axed, with HSBC the worst hit
  • However, bricks-and-mortar banks are still vital for the elderly and vulnerable
  • MPs said physical banks will be more important during the cost of living crisis 

The five biggest banks have closed more than half their branches since 2015, the Mail can reveal today, with HSBC the worst offender.

Lenders have taken the axe to their bricks-and-mortar network as more households turn to digital banking.

But branches are still vital for the vulnerable, the elderly and those who need face-to-face advice. Critics have lambasted lenders for leaving swathes of society with little access to basic banking services.

Physical locations are likely to become even more important during the cost-of-living crunch, MPs added, as families look for more help with their finance.

HSBC has been the worst affected of Britain’s five biggest banks, with 69 per cent of its branches closing since 2015

Barclays has also seen 67 per cent of its bricks-and-mortar banks close in the last seven years

Data collected by the Mail showed that Britain’s biggest lenders – Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest, HSBC and Santander – had a combined total of 7,553 branches in 2015.

But according to analysis of figures from the consumer rights group Which?, they have shuttered or announced plans to close 4,294 of those locations – 57 per cent – over the past eight years.

HSBC, which has reduced its branch network from around 1,070 to 327, has closed 69 per cent of its UK branches.

Barclays has shut 67 per cent and NatWest 64 per cent.

Alexander Stafford, a Tory MP on the all-party group for fair business banking, said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful that these banks are pulling up their drawbridges for British customers when we need them the most.

‘Not only does it limit access to essential services, but it cuts jobs when we need them badly. With HSBC closing so many branches one has to ask whether they really care about British customers at all, as it does not seem that way.’

The disappearance of bank branches from high streets has left many communities with little access to cash.

Which? said last week that a total of 5,162 branches have closed since January 2015 and a further 206 are set to close next year.

Jenny Ross, money editor at Which?, said: ‘Cash remains a vital tool to pay or manage finances for millions across the country, yet access to it has been hit by a slew of bank branch and ATM closures in recent years.

‘Initiatives proposed by the banking industry to offer alternative ways of accessing cash, such as enhanced Post Offices and banking hubs, may well play a part in plugging the gaps left by shuttered branches, but what is needed most is legislation.

NatWest has also seen 64 per cent of its branches close as banking increasingly moves online

‘The Government has proposed delivering laws to protect cash, but these risk being undermined if there aren’t guaranteed minimum levels of free access to it, to ensure that people don’t have to fork out to get hold of their own money.’

HSBC is among the banks planning further closures next year with 114 of its branches set to shut. Lloyds is closing 17 under its own brand and the Halifax brand while NatWest is axing 42.

Labour City spokesman Tulip Siddiq blamed the Government for failing ‘to protect in-person banking services which older people, the poorest and the most vulnerable in our communities rely on for financial advice and support’.

She added: ‘It’s inevitable that payment and banking systems will continue to innovate, but the Conservatives’ failure to protect these services risks cutting off millions of people from essential services, such as making and receiving payments or help with a loan.’

Labour has tabled an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill which would require the Treasury and the City watchdog to review the public need for, and access to, in-person banking services

‘Hundreds more’ bank closures have been predicted by Tory peer Lord Holmes in the next year. Lloyds is closing 17 under its own and the Halifax brand

Labour has tabled an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill which would require the Treasury and the City watchdog to review the public need for, and access to, in-person banking services, and set out their policies in relation to the provision of these services.

Lord Holmes, a former Paralympic swimmer and Toy peer who campaigns for financial inclusion, said there were likely to be ‘hundreds more’ bank closures next year.

He aded: ‘There’s some good work being done around the creation of banking hubs and protecting access to cash, but we desperately need to join the dots and make sure the five million people who rely on cash aren’t left behind.’

Jackie Uhi, HSBC’s managing director of UK distribution, said: ‘The decision to close a branch is never easy or taken lightly, especially if we are the last branch in an area, so we’ve invested heavily in our ‘post closure’ strategy, including providing free tablet devices to selected branch customers who do not already have a device to bank digitally, alongside one-to-one coaching to help them migrate to digital banking.’

She said the bank was committed to ‘supporting the UK’s new banking hubs and other community access to cash initiatives’.

The other banks have all explained that branches are being used by too few people, and that they are committed to supporting customers as they shutter the quietest locations.

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