Billed as the biggest expansion in face-to-face banking in a generation, the UK's banks have struck an industry-wide deal to conduct day-to-day banking tasks across the national Post Office network.
The agreement, which covers 99% of UK personal bank customers and 75% of business clients, comes as banks shutter branches across the length and breadth of the country to make way for a new generation of digital banking services.
Data published by consumer group Which? says that more than 1000 branches have been closed over the past two years as banks move more customers online and roll out improved mobile banking services, decimating footfall in physical banking halls.
Indeed news of the deal comes on the same day that HSBC announces plans
to shut 62 branches with the loss of up to 180 jobs. The latest closures will have seen the bank reduce its branch network by a third over the past two years, leaving it with an estate of just 625 outlets nationwide. The bank says it has experienced a 40% drop in branch visits over the past five years.
Last year the Post Office carried out 110 million banking transactions across its network of 11,600 branches across the UK.
The new agreement will bring together the Post Office’s existing arrangements with individual banks into a single set of cash and cheque services available to customers of virtually all UK banks. Card-based transactions will enable real-time credit and debit payments into customer accounts.
The deal was welcomed by the British Banking Association, which has borne the brunt of complaints from customers and Government ministers over the loss of banking services to small towns and local communities.
BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne says: “Nine out of ten people now live within twenty minutes’ walk from a bank or a Post Office where they are able to do banking face-to-face with another person. It ensures customers can continue to access face-to-face banking and that no-one gets left behind by the technological revolution sweeping the industry.”