As a child, there was something very exciting about counting my coppers. The pennies would eventually turn into pounds and I’d get to take them to the bank in those little coin bags.
The savings would grow in my children’s savings account until it was time to withdraw the money and buy that toy I’d been eyeing up.
The trip to the bank branch taught me about managing my money, and I couldn’t wait for the day I would get my own debit card.
Of course, technology has dramatically advanced since then, and I must admit I’ve found there are huge benefits to mobile and online banking – I check my accounts on an almost daily basis and by not having to choose banks in the local area, the range of options has dramatically widened.
Thousands of bank branches have been closed since 2015
But I’ve been immersed in technology for most of my life. I don’t remember a time without the internet.
That’s not the case for everyone. Not everyone can or wants to use mobile and online banking.
I’ve reported on hundreds of bank branch closures in recent years, and now more and more villages and towns across the UK are finding themselves bank branchless.
Travelling miles to the neighbouring town or city to pay in a cheque isn’t always possible. It might not be too much of a detour for those who can hop in the car, but what about those who can no longer drive due to ailing health?
I don’t think these often-vulnerable people should be expected to spend hours travelling for miles on public transport just to find out why their bank card isn’t working, or to discuss a community club’s bank account.
And, if they don’t want one, why should the elderly be forced to get a smartphone instead of taking a short stroll into their village?
Banks and building societies may argue they can communicate via telephone or internet banking, but I think it’s important in-person banking remains an option.
For some people who live alone, visiting the bank means they can actually speak to a human that day.
That’s why I think the decision to close the Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Mobile Banking Vans service from May 2024 is disappointing.
While banks across the board have been deserting the high street for years, at least these pop-up branches offered those in rural communities the opportunity to communicate with a bank employee face-to-face.
Lloyds Bank says many customers are using the service less and choosing other ways to bank instead, with mobile branch visits having fallen by 90 per cent since 2018.
They claim mobile branches now help 14 customers on average and have promised to introduce 32 more Community Bankers to provide targeted face-to-face banking support.
A spokesperson also pointed out other options customers already have – such as “Post Office, online, our mobile apps, phone banking, video services and web chat”.
But with 123 more Lloyds Bank branches set to close this year, I think the decision to end the service is premature.
While 21 million of their customers bank online or through their mobile apps, Lloyds said eight per cent of their customers choose to use a branch exclusively to manage their money.
That would suggest hundreds of thousands of their customers still solely bank in person.
But with 5,835 bank and building society branches having closed since January 2015, according to research by Which?, branch-only customers are finding they have fewer and fewer choices.
And I am worried other banks will follow Lloyds and end their mobile branch services.