Bank branches won't be around for much longerby Merryn Somerset Webb / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
The humble high street bank will soon be a thing of the past
This piece is from our special report on digital banking. Click here to read the first piece in the series, “a bank branch in your pocket.” Click here to read the third piece in the series, “The digital race.”
I went into an actual branch of Lloyds bank last week. It was the first time I had been into a bank branch in a good five years. It was huge, comfortable, welcoming and almost completely empty. This came as no particular surprise: I never go to the bank anymore. If anyone owes me money, be they friend or employer, I expect them to pay online directly into my bank account. Going to the bank with a cheque is so little a part of my routine that, the last time I had one, it took me so long to cash it they called to ask if I needed it reissuing.
And think about how often you pay for things in cash these days. Almost never. I use my card for everything, small payments included, and make transfers—to HMRC, to my sisters, to the builders—online. If I were a tiny bit younger I’d probably have downloaded a money transfer app by now and, if I were a Barclays customer, I’d sign up for one of their new bPay bands. You pop it on your wrist and then wave it at any one of 300,000 scanners across the UK to make your payments. Cash now accounts only for around half of all transactions in the UK—and that’s falling fast. We’ve passed the tipping point.
If you don’t pay for things in cash and you don’t get paid in cash or cheques, why would you need a bank branch? I spoke to a church warden recently who was worried about how he was going to deposit his congregations’ collection when the last branch in the area had gone. I told him not to worry: by the time the last branch has gone they’ll be simply be waving their phones at his collection plate on their way out. Job done.
There is a view that customers won’t allow this shift to happen; that we all need face-to-face contact when it comes to money. This is nonsense. One need only look at First Direct.…