The retreat of the High Street Bank

For many years they may have ruled our High Streets but it appears recent years have seen a massive retreat when it comes to High Street Bank branches. Whereas at one time visiting your bank to conduct financial matters was the preferred choice amongst consumers, nowadays digital banking is fast becoming the favourite option amongst all types of consumers. Whereas in the past when visiting your local bank there may have been 10 cashiers available at any one time, nowadays, there is often only a few at most. In addition to a reduction of staff, even the manner in which in-branch banking is conducted has changed. Most of the major UK Banks now offer in-branch facilities for digital banking, meaning the paying in of money or changes to basic account functions can be completed via the multitude of computer screens ready and waiting for us. This coupled with the fact that many millions of consumers prefer the use of online or mobile banking, means that the future of the High Street Bank remains a little uncertain. Lloyds recently announced a planned closure of an extra 200 of their branches across the UK and this is off the back of similar closures from the likes of Barclays and HSBC too. With all of this in mind then, what is the likely future of the High Street Bank and what does this mean for customers? Today we aim to find out.

It seems there are a number of different factors which contribute to the decline of the High Street Bank. First of all, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are living in a digital age and this means we want to access our goods and services; such as banking, in the most fuss-free manner. Arguably online and mobile banking is better than ever and as such it keeping a large proportion of consumers who once used the High Street Banks at bay. In fact, all the major banks are openly encouraging their services to use their digital services and are working year in and year out to invest in their digital resources. Most online and mobile banking resources now allow consumers to perform all the functions a visit to the High Street Bank would have previously done. Not only that but in addition these digital functions are clear, easy to do and back up by plenty of security measures. Take for example Barclays Pinsentry security system. Through this tool, Barclays customers can access a number of services; back up by multiple security measure at each stage. An example of a service available via Pinsentry is the transfer of funds from a Barclays account to a new recipient. The Pinsentry device requires the user to have access to the debit card of the account, the online banking log-ins and then of course the corresponding Pin Number; without all or any one of these things; a new transfer simply cannot be made. Of course there is also an opportunity for the major Bank players to reduce their costs via the reduction in the number of High Street branches they have. As well as building costs there are of course staffing costs and less branches mean less costs in these areas. This combined with our continued willingness as consumers to use digital banking resources, means that the banks have an opportunity on a very large scale to save money.

Whilst as a collective consumers have certainly shown a desire to use online resources for our banking needs, the disappearance of High Street Banks for some, might be a step to far. Whilst the digital resources at our disposal are clearly effective, they cannot completely replace the services offered by a High Street Bank. It could be argued there is a safety in knowing your local Bank branch is available, should an issue or concern arise. Whilst banking issues can be resolved via the means of digital banking resources, there has always been a benefit in knowing there is a person available nearby, should you be uncertain of how to approach the issue. It will then be interesting to see how the major Bank players tackle this balance in the years to come. Whilst currently it may seem impossible to have our Banks exist via an entirely electronic means, perhaps in the not too distant future, this is in fact exactly what they are working towards.

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Author: Internal Customer Services Agent