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Lloyds Banking Group has said it will close a further 44 branches this year, including sites in London, as the industry moves customers to digital channels.
A total of 29 Lloyds and 15 Halifax branches will shutter following the latest announcement. The branches, which will close between September and November this year, include some in major urban areas such Regent Street, Berkeley Square and Kentish Town in London.
Vim Maru, retail director for Lloyds Banking Group, said customers carry out fewer transactions at the branches that have been chosen for closure. “Like many businesses on the high street, we must change for a future where branches will be used in a different way, and visited less often,” he said.
Mobile apps and internet banking are being used by more and more people across all age groups and banks across Europe have been closing branches and increasing their investment in digital channels.
Over the last 18 months, the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced banks to temporarily close branches, drove more customers to digital banking channels. This has given banks justification for cutting back further on branch numbers.
When HSBC recently announced it was closing 82 branches, it said the pandemic had “crystallised its thinking” in terms of reducing reliance on its branch network to serve customers.
But the UK financial regulator is concerned about banks closing branches during the current health crisis. Earlier this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had been told by some banks and building societies that they were “either going ahead with branch closures already announced or announcing new branch closures during the current lockdown”.
The FCA said: “We are concerned that these activities could have significant consequences for customers. It may be harder than usual to reach all customers under the current restrictions and engage with them on closure proposals effectively – for example, small businesses that are temporarily closed.
“Some customers may need to access in-branch services to help them prepare for closures, but may be unable to do so. Customers may also need additional help to access online banking and make payments. We want firms to review their plans against our existing guidance and ensure that they continue to comply with our principles.”
Following the latest closures announced by Lloyds, the Unite union said the bank is “walking away from local communities”.
“The decision to further erode its presence within our communities is baffling,” said Unite national officer Caren Evans. “The closure of 44 more bank branches will deny our communities essential services such as access to cash and experienced, highly trained staff. A local ATM is not a suitable alternative to a staffed bank branch.”
Read more about branch closures in the digital age
- Sweden’s Handelsbanken set to cut branch network by nearly half, but plans to invest heavily in IT to offer customers digital alternatives.
- HSBC closing a further 82 branches as Covid-19 pandemic reinforces its strategy to move customers to digital channels.
- Co-operative Bank to rely more heavily on digital channels as 18 more branches are shuttered.