Herding the sheep on-line to be fleeced - by closing even busy bank branches

I trust on-line banking as far as I can throw it – which is not very far. It is not that I do not trust the security of the systems of the banks I use. I do not trust the security of the equipment I use to access their systems or of the mail service via which I receive their authentication devices and pins. I live barely a hundred yards from a busy high street in which Tesco, Sainbury’s, Iceland and the Co-op, plus over fifty small shops compete for my business. When I moved in, fifteen years ago, it had four busy bank branches (counting building societies as banks) and one pawnbroker. Today it has one bank branch and three pawnbrokers (including payday loan, cheque changers and gold buying operations). It also has over a dozen small shops offering Western Union and other global money transmission services.

We had choice and I had accounts with all four of the banks/building societies – moving balances according to the interest paid. Then Abbey National closed what had been called “the most robbed bank in Britain” (it apparently overtook the RBS Branch next to Barlinnie after they spent a large amount making it open plan with no security). I closed my last (postal) account when Santander took over and the interest rate vanished even before the Banking Crisis. Then Nationwide closed its cosy little fortress. Rather than use their branches miles away in shopping centres I never visit, I now time pay-ins and anything complex for when I am in Central London.

Then two days ago I discovered  that the local Nat West Branch had not only been closed, permanently, “for health and safety reasons” with no notice to customers, but the cash machines had been removed. I contacted the local councillors and was told that the only information available was the report in one of the local free sheets which also contained their comments and those of the local MP.  That means I will have to adjust my next visit into Central London to include an opportunity to pay my VAT into a Nat West branch, because HMRC will not accept a cheque.

We complain of the difficulty of reporting electronic crime but Lambeth Police have long had a simple policy for cutting reported physial crime – shut down the means of reporting it. That allows them to report success against their crime reduction targets. I had not previously appreciated how efficient this is at also moving elderly victims online so that they can be fleeced more efficiently than mugging them in the street.  However, help may be at hand. I do hope that Tescobank reads this and takes note. Their local store is in that part of the High Street where their security guard (and those of the other supermarkets) provide mutual assistance. I also hope that Barclays, also in the “secure” area, next to the busiest bus stop, reads this and does a short order marketing blitz for local small firms business.     

It would be even better if we also had a regular physical police presence, with PACE paperwork done on the spot by Blackberry or Android and a ferry service to take those arrested back to fortress Brixton for same day trial and sentencing (or at least overnight detention and next day trial – as in the days of Peelite policing). Now that would be a good use of technology to support people processes.