The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed updated guidance that will require banks and building societies to thoroughly assess the impact of changes to their services, as they seek to strengthen the protection of access to banking services and limiting the ever-increasing number of branches. closures in the country.
These new guidelines will include assessing the impact of shorter branch opening hours, planned branch closures, the removal or conversion of ATMs or the reduction of the services they provide.
The FCA warned that “some banks and building societies are currently not doing enough to fully understand the impact of these changes and keep their customers informed”.
The proposal also includes communicating with other groups such as charities and local councils to understand the wider impact of changes to services.
In 2020, initial guidance on branch closures and conversions was issued in the wake of the pandemic, with the FCA saying the proposed update is the latest action it has taken to “protect access to services banks, which includes access to cash at branches”.
“We expect businesses to continue to provide easy and accessible banking services to their customers, and this is all the more important as the country faces a cost of living crisis,” says Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA.
“We’ve seen companies do this successfully and support consumers during the pandemic, and this standard needs to continue with companies really thinking about their customers, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, and making sure they continue to meet their needs.”
2022 has seen a wave of branch closures at major banks.
Barclays is expected to close 27 more branches by the end of August. The closures mean the company will have closed 103 branches by the end of the year, according to Who?
In March, Lloyds Banking Group announced that it planned to close a further 60 branches on UK high streets in 2022. In June last year, Lloyds had planned the closure of 44 branches, in addition to the 56 planned in June 2020.
HSBC, NatWest and RBS also said dozens of UK branches would be closed as footfall plummeted and many customers moved online.