As you may have read, recently
published findings from consumer charity Which? have revealed consumers are not happy about the number of bank branch and ATM closures we’re seeing. Key findings show that of those interviewed:
- Nearly nine in ten (86%) said they’d visited a bank branch at least once in the past year;
- Eight in ten (83%) said branches should stay open for those who are unable or unwilling to use alternatives;
- More than three quarters (77%) said we need branches in case there are technical problems with digital alternatives.
We know why banks are closing their doors – operational efficiency - but the bigger question is why aren’t they investing in alternatives in the world of smart banking to make up for the shortfall in access to financial services these changes are creating?
If bank branches are to continue to close, which looks likely, the banking sector needs to radically rethink its approach to technology if rural communities are to continue to have access to financial services. Qualifying this Ceri Stanaway, Which? Money
Editor, said: “The true scale of bank branch closures in recent decades is staggering - and has left millions of people struggling to access the vital financial services and cash that they need.”
Innovation in the banking sector has been stifled by large organisations that have consistently failed to deliver anything new. In the ATM space, for example, there is potential to create ‘bank-in-a-box’ facilities, replacing branches and alleviating much
of the stress of closures for the public and banks alike.
Yet, the sector refuses to invest in technology that could move ATMs forward from delivering a small number of basic functions to offering advice, loans, mortgages and much more. More broadly, the sector refuses to invest in technology that is not vulnerable
to service outages, further dimming any prospect of real alternatives to in-branch banking.
This chronic lack of innovation in financial services is an issue that surpasses the responsibility of banks and I welcome the Government’s interest in the area. Putting communities at further risk of facing further financial exclusion simply cannot be allowed
Innovation and technology sit at the heart of this problem and its solution. Rethinking it is perhaps the only way to recreate a lasting sense of equilibrium when it comes to financial services and society.
Bank recognise that this is causing customers a problem, but at present their solution is to deploy fleets of community bankers to meet the needs of those people affected. I for one am not convinced this is a long-term, sustainable answer.