Barclays bank is closing another 14 of its branches as the number of people visiting them falls amid a continued move to digital banking channels. The branches in England and Wales will be shuttered in June this year.
Barclays joins competitors in announcing a new round of closures. Earlier this year, NatWest said it would shutter 23 branches in England and Wales in the next six months, while Lloyds Banking Group recently announced it would close 40 branches.
Banks’ announcements of branch closures are inevitably accompanied by statements that customers are moving to digital channels and footfall in branches is dropping rapidly.
Banks have been closing branches and redirecting investments into digital channels for years, and the Covid-19 pandemic – which forced customers online – accelerated take up of digital services and reduction in branch use.
A Barclays spokesperson said: “As visits to branches continue to fall, we need to adapt to provide the best service for all our customers.”
But the government wants banks to ensure their customers can reach physical services, including access to cash.
In May last year, the government said it would legislate for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure banks allow consumers to access cash and make deposits within a reasonable distance from their homes. “To support the FCA, the government will in due course set out its expectations for a reasonable distance for people to travel when depositing and withdrawing cash,” said a statement from the Treasury at the time.
The Barclays spokesperson said: “Where there is no longer enough demand to support a branch, we maintain an in-person presence though our Barclays Local network, live in over 200 locations, based in libraries, town halls, mobile vans and our new banking pods.
“We also support access to cash with our cashback without purchase service, 24-hour deposit-taking ATMs and by working alongside the Post Office and Cash Access UK.”
In January, Barclays launched a project to create “banking pods” where banking services can be accessed. The bank describes the banking pods as “purpose-built, semi-permanent structures in sites such as shopping centres and retail parks”.
The bank said at least 10 will be set up in the UK by summer 2023. To reach customers in remote locations, it also plans for six more electric vehicle banking vans to be added to its existing fleet of 10.
Last month, TSB said it is piloting its own banking pods, which will offer banking services in shopping centres and provide an alternative source of banking services as more bank branches close.
It is running three pilots of its pods in North London, Wigan and Luton. They use technology, known as BankHive, from ATM provider NoteMachine to connect customers with TSB to carry out their banking.
Customers will be able to access cash and TSB will soon add functionality so they can deposit money. They will also be able to get support from advisers on activities such as making payments, accessing products and services, or setting up digital banking.