HSBC to close 69 more bank branches as Covid speeds shift online

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HSBC is to shut a further 69 branches, on top of the 82 it axed last year, claiming the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital banking.

It is the latest in a line of banks to announce it is reducing its network in response to changing customer habits. Consumer organisation Which? said the number of closures during the last few years was “alarming” and that millions of people were not yet ready or able to go fully digital.

Early last year HSBC had 593 branches, but the latest round of closures – scheduled to take place between mid-July and early October – will take that down to 441, of which 96 are described as “full service” outlets offering a comprehensive range of services.

The 69 branches that are closing are spread across the UK, from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to Falmouth in Cornwall.

Those being axed include branches in high-profile London locations such as New Bond Street, Moorgate, Angel Islington and Gloucester Road in South Kensington – areas that are likely to have seen a reduction in footfall during the pandemic, when millions of the capital’s employees turned to working from home.

HSBC said the decision to “reshape” its network was in response to an increasing preference for mobile and online banking.

Fewer than half of its customers now actively use the branch network, with average footfall falling by more than 50% since 2017, said a spokesperson.

The closures mean the average distance a customer will have to travel to a branch to speak to a real person will be four miles.

Jenny Ross, the money editor at Which?, said: “There has been an alarming number of bank branch closures in recent years, and many consumers who rely on banks to access cash for everyday essentials and face-to-face services will be concerned about what these latest closures mean for them.”

A series of branch closures have been announced during the pandemic, with financial institutions insisting customers are spurning traditional counter service in favour of online banking. In November 2021, TSB announced it was closing a further 70 branches. Last October, Lloyds Banking Group said it would be closing a further 48 branches, while in September, Virgin Money announced it was shutting 31 outlets for good.

Ross said Which? urged the government to make good on its promise to bring in legislation to ensure consumers would continue to be able to access cash for as long as it was needed.

HSBC said all of the branches that were closing had a post office within 1.5 miles, and that 90% had 10 or more free-to-use ATMs within one mile. It added that it would be refurbishing branches in important locations, installing new integrated deposit and withdrawal cash machines, holding pop-up events in local libraries and community halls, and providing free tablet devices to some vulnerable customers.

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