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No end to UK bank branch closures as HSBC shuts 69 more

HSBC closes another 69 branches as customers continue to migrate to digital channels

HSBC is the latest bank to announce branch closures due to an increasing reliance on digital banking by its customers.

The bank said 400 staff would be affected by the closures, which will take place between July and September.

HSBC closed 82 branches just over a year ago, citing an accelerated move to online and mobile channels among its customer base.

At the time, Jackie Uhi, head of HSBC UK’s branch network, said the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced people to bank online while branches were closed, had crystallised its thinking in terms of customer services.

Following the latest announcement, Uhi said: “Our branches continue to support people with their more complex banking needs, but the way we can do this has also evolved, with the addition of banking hubs, community pop-ups and continued use of the Post Office network.

“The majority of our customers have a preference to do much of their day-to-day banking online or via mobile, so we’re removing locations where we have another branch nearby, and where there is a significant reduction in customers using face-to-face branch servicing.”

Uhi added the cuts would enable HSBC to invest in locations where customers continue to use branches, such as updating technology and refurbishing those branches.

HSBC said less than 50% of its customers now actively use branches, with footfall dropping by 50% in the past five years.

Following the latest closures, HSBC will have 441 UK branches, of which only 96 will offer a full range of services.

In December 2021, consumer rights champion Which? called for a pause in bank branch closures amid fears that people could be left without easy access to cash and services.

Figures released by the consumer rights organisation at the time revealed that since the beginning of 2015, banks and building societies have closed or scheduled the closure of 4,734 branches in the UK.

They showed that an average of about 60 UK bank branches closed in every month of 2021, with 298 branches closed between June and August alone.

The increased take-up of digital banking services during the Covid-19 pandemic and the desire by banks to cut operational costs accelerated closures, making the future of branch networks uncertain.

The pandemic acted as a showcase for digital services, moving more people onto digital channels. The use of cash declined and contactless payment methods skyrocketed as people tried to avoid physical contact with other people and things. This is set to have a lasting effect, with many people who were traditionally reluctant to use digital channels moving to them in droves during the pandemic.

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