More than a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut their doors since 2015 while hundreds of those that remain have slashed their opening hours, new research from Which? reveals.
The consumer champion investigated the bank branch network between January 2015 and August 2019 and found there were 3,303 closures (34%) in that period - reducing the national tally from 9,803 to 6,549.
The closures were primarily driven by the ‘Big Four’ banks, with RBS Group cutting its network by 56%.
Which? found that HSBC reduced its network by 42% with 442 closures, and Barclays closed at least a third of its branches (33% and 481 closures), although the true figure could be higher as the bank did not share full closure information with Which?.
Lloyds Banking Group shut a quarter (25%) of its network, with Lloyds Bank closing 404 branches (31%), Bank of Scotland shutting 95 branches (32%) and Halifax closing 70 branches (11%).
Outside the Big Four, Co-op was the biggest culprit, slashing over two-thirds of its estate.
In contrast, Nationwide retained an impressive 96% of its branches, following a pledge to keep its last branch in any town or city open until at least May 2021.
Of all the UK’s bank branches that remain open, 298 are now operating with reduced opening hours of four days a week or less.
Eleven branches - all in Scotland - open for just one day a week, while 45 branches nationwide open for just two days a week.
With around a third (30%) of the UK population still not using online banking, Which? says banks must explore more innovative ways to ensure those who rely on face-to-face banking are able to access it.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, says: “Bank branches play a crucial role within communities, serving consumers and businesses alike. The industry must ensure no-one is left behind by the digital transition and that when banks shut their doors they don’t shut their customers out of important banking services.”