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TSB pilots pods as branch replacements

TSB joins Barclays in adopting banking pods to ensure customers have access to physical banking services as the number of high street branches declines

TSB is piloting three banking pods, which will offer banking services in shopping centres and provide an alternative source of banking services as more and more bank branches close.

Amid the digital banking revolution, the government is setting rules that banks will have to provide customers with physical access to cash and the ability to make deposits. To this end, banks are investing in new ways of ensuring a physical presence for customers that require it.

The bank is running three pilots of its TSB pods in North London, Wigan and Luton. The “semi-permanent structures” use technology, known as BankHive, from ATM provider NoteMachine to connect customers with TSB to carry out their banking.

Customers will be able to access cash and TSB will soon add functionality so they can deposit money. They will also be able to get support from advisers on activities such as making payments, accessing products and services, or setting up digital banking.

Gary Jones, TSB’s customer delivery director, said customers are banking differently. “We see both an increase in their use of technology and in customers seeking help to do their banking in more convenient ways,” he said. “TSB remains committed to offering face-to-face banking services and, with pilots like the TSB pods underway and an increase in our video banking offer, we continue to innovate in how we can serve our customers in ways that work best for them.”

The TSB Pods are in addition to 43 pop-up banking services offered by TSB in venues in rural communities. These were announced when the bank announced the closure of 70 branches in November 2021 and said it would introduce pop-up services in communities that needed them.

TSB’s Pod announcement echoes Barclays’ project to create new “banking pods” where banking services can be accessed. Barclays also said these are semi-permanent structures in sites such as shopping centres. Barclays said at least 10 will be set up in the UK by summer 2023. To reach customers in remote locations, it also plans for six more electric vehicle banking vans to be added to its existing fleet of 10.

Read more about bank branch closures

Banks continue to shutter branches as customers migrate to digital channels. For example, last month NatWest said last week it would shutter 23 branches in England and Wales in the next six months, while Lloyds Banking Group recently announced it would close 40 branches.

Banks’ announcements of branch closures are inevitably accompanied by statements that customers are moving to digital channels and footfall in branches is dropping rapidly.

But the government and consumer rights groups, such as Which?, want banks to ensure their customers have access to cash.

In May last year, the government said it would legislate for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure banks allow consumers to access cash and make deposits within a reasonable distance from their homes. “To support the FCA, the government will in due course set out its expectations for a reasonable distance for people to travel when depositing and withdrawing cash,” said a statement from the Treasury at the time.

Cash is still an essential part of the economy. While its use has been declining for years, last year saw the amount of cash withdrawn from ATMs increase 19%, compared with 2021, as people attempted to avoid going into debt during the cost-of-living crisis.

According to the numbers from Nationwide Building Society, more than 30 million cash withdrawals were made. This is the first time in 13 years there has been an increase in ATM use.

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