Bosses of major banks defend branch closures to MPs

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Following a string of recent closure announcements, Britain’s biggest banks have insisted they remain committed to physical branches.

He also disagreed with the suggestion that banks rely on customer inertia when it comes to accounts such as savings.

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Speaking to the Treasury committee about the branch closures, HSBC UK chief executive Ian Stuart said the bank is “absolutely committed to having a physical footprint in the UK”.

Customer behavior began to change in 1982 with the advent of the cash machine. and it’s on the journey from that point and it’s accelerated

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He told the hearing: “We think it is important, but we need to scale it up properly over the long term.

“Customer behavior began to change in 1982 with the advent of the cash machine. And it’s on a journey from that point on and its momentum has accelerated.

“And this accelerated during the pandemic, no doubt as customers changed their banking behaviour.”

Mr Stuart said 98% of the bank’s transactions in December were digital.

Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, said: “We are seeing a significant change in customer behaviour.

“But we recognize that we need to look after all of our customers and ensure that we support particularly vulnerable customers.”

I certainly rebut the idea that we rely on inertia, I don’t think it represents the way we design our products or engage customers in any way.

Charlie Noon, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, told MPs: “We remain very committed to our branch network.”

Owners were also asked whether banks rely on the inertia of customers on running accounts.

Matt Hammerstein, chief executive of Barclays UK, said: “I certainly refute the idea that we rely on inertia, I don’t think it affects in any way the way we design our products or engage customers. representative.”

He said that customer feedback to Barclays suggested that customers had lost their savings habits, and that the bank had designed its product range to support them.

Mr Stuart told MPs: “We actively reach out to customers.

“Recently sent over half a million emails to customers… We are actively trying to drive customers towards the great savings products we have launched.”

Asked if it was marketing, Mr Stuart said: “I think our products are very competitive.

“I would argue that the vast majority of our customers shop.”

Mr Noon told the hearing: “When you look at the instant access savings, we churn out between 5% and 7% of all our balances – going in between our competitors – every month. So it’s the most we have. One of the actively transferred products or services.

Owners were also asked about borrowers and the mortgage market after mortgage rates jumped last autumn amid market volatility.

Dame Alison said there was “huge disruption during the mini-budget when we saw gilt and swap rates rise very quickly”.

She said that, while mortgage rates are coming down, the bank is helping customers look at their balance sheets and find the answers that are right for them.

After hearing, Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor said: “For those minority of people who still rely on cash, having a local, easily accessible bank branch is essential.

“While it is true that many consumers are switching to online banking, it would be wrong to assume that this means physical branches are no longer needed or wanted by the millions of consumers who use cash every day, and increasingly Rely on it to manage from tight household budgets during the crisis of living.

“Our data shows that bank branches and easy-to-use ATMs have been closing at an alarming rate in recent years, with a very real risk of putting some of society’s most vulnerable people, including the elderly, out of access to essential banking services “

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