The Financial Conduct Authority is asking the UK's banks to reconsider branch closures during the Coronavirus lockdown.
The FCA in September introduced new requirement on banks to carefully assess customer needs and and consider the availability and provision of alternative arrangements where closures or conversions are planned.
With Covid restrictions in place across the UK, the regulatory body says that some banks and building societies have informed it that they are either going ahead with branch closures already announced, or announcing new branch closures during the current lockdown.
"We are concerned that these activities could have significant consequences for customers," the FCA states. "It may be harder than usual to reach all customers under the current restrictions and engage with them on closure proposals effectively. Some customers may need to access in-branch services to help them prepare for closures but may be unable to do so. Customers may also need additional help to access online banking and making payments. We want firms to review their plans against our existing guidance and ensure that they continue to comply with our Principles."
HSBC, TSB and Lloyds Bank have all announced extensive branch closure programmes this year.
Banks that press ahead with branch closures will have to demonstrate to the regulator that they have actively followed the September guidance. Otherwise, "they should consider pausing or delaying new branch closures where possible, particularly where this could have significant impact on vulnerable customers".