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Could sharing bank branches help save the high street?

As you stroll along the local high streets this weekend, you’ll notice that Covid-19 is accelerating the disappearance of the remaining bank branches.

Banks are disappearing from British towns and cities at the following rates: About 50 a month Since 2015.Blockade and the rise of digital banking in extreme circumstances Decline Cash payments have made it even easier for banks to justify further closures.

The government finally with all the urgency of procrastination snails Start talks This month, banks become individual and small business customers “Reasonable” level The definition of “reasonable” has not yet been set out, but for access to cash. So what is the solution?

This week I went to Rochford, a small market town in Essex, to see if a brand new bank on that high street would be the answer.

Bank Hub opened in April. One of the two UK Pilot scheme, Five major banks effectively share branches and offer carry-on reservations to existing customers. The post office provides dedicated counter services for small businesses and personal banks. Like a regular post office, it’s much faster because there’s no line of people back to online shopping.

If you have readers who doubt the demand for cash and basic banking services in the community, please stay at the Rochford hub for an hour.

Community Services: Bank Hub Manager Cal McCall and Lloyds Bank Community Bunker Tanya Davis say Rochford’s customers appreciate face-to-face services © Claer Barrett / FT

It is enthusiastically accepted by shoppers and retailers who still lament the closure of Barclays, the last bank in town, about five years ago.

“People come in regularly and say they’ve been doing business with Barclays since the 1950s,” says Bankhub Manager Calmacole. “They are happy that they no longer have to go to Rayleigh or the South End.”

The same is true for small business customers who are changing and coming to use the hub’s self-service cash deposit capabilities.

The Turkish barber building across the street boasts that you can earn cash without locking the store. Previously, he had to close early and drive to the next town.

All of this has made it much easier for Rochford retailers to continue to pay in cash. We couldn’t find any stores with the “Card payment only” sign. This is far from my neighborhood.

Local Butcher Jason McCulley is the owner J Mac Meat, Famous for Tomahawk steak. He has a roaring deal during the heat wave, calling the hub most days to get changes and deposit his belongings.

According to Jason, about 25% of customers pay in cash, down from more than 60% before the blockade, accusing the unfounded fear of transmitting the virus through banknotes. He had previously been handed wet banknotes and coins washed with soapy water by customers. This is a novel idea of ​​money laundering.

Jason McCulley, a local butcher in Rochford, says 25% of customers pay in cash, compared to about 60% before Covid-19.Some paid him with freshly washed banknotes

Jason McCulley, a local butcher in Rochford, says 25% of customers pay in cash, compared to about 60% before Covid-19. Some paid him with freshly washed banknotes © Claer Barrett / FT

He and other traders are confident that banking hubs have boosted habits, saying shoppers forced to travel elsewhere for face-to-face banks will inevitably spend money there as well. I am.

Most of the people I stopped by on the day I visited were private bank customers, the majority of whom were over 50, but that’s not all. I used the counter service to withdraw cash and pay the invoice.

Bank hubs deviate from existing post office partnerships with five banks supporting pilots (NatWest, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Santander) in dedicated meeting rooms on designated weekdays. Hosting a drop-in appointment.

Lloyds community bunker Tanya Davis works every Tuesday. A rare example of consistency in the modern banking industry that her visitors clearly appreciate (“Hello Tanya!”).

“Customers love being able to talk face-to-face with someone from the bank,” she says.

The most common requests are payment and remittance assistance. With the proliferation of bank fraud, many are not confident in doing this online. Some people don’t have a smartphone. Others say it takes too long to reach telephone banking.

In addition to ordering replacement debit cards and checkbooks, many people receive queries about their statements. This can usually be resolved quickly by Tanya.

The UK is one of the countries with the lowest per capita bank branch ratio in Europe, and Chasrts shows the number of UK bank branches and bank branches per million inhabitants.

Customers cannot apply for a mortgage or execute more complex transactions, but they also have clear fraud protection benefits. Cal says that people often ask (never, never) if the text they claim to be from a bank or Royal Mail is really genuine.

Natalie Cheaney, Access to Cash Review and Community access pilotWe hope that the shared banking model will be replicated nationwide.

According to a study by this group, about 8 million people in the UK are completely dependent on cash, and Ceeney says this is highly correlated with vulnerability, age and poverty.

“If your annual income is less than £ 10,000 14 times more likely Relying on cash rather than earning over £ 30,000, “she says.

Many families “manage penny”. This is especially true for families with zero-hour contracts who have irregular incomes. Withdrawals of less than £ 10 are often required, even if free cash points are available.

The day I visited the bank hub, a woman came in and withdrew the last 80p of her account to buy bread.

Similarly, many low-income people want to control when money leaves their accounts, so they avoid monthly direct debits. This is evident from the fact that Rochford customers want to pay invoices over-the-counter.

“Cash is becoming a dirty word now,” complains Jeff, a market trader who runs a stall selling greeting cards. Most of his merchandise costs less than £ 1, so he only receives cash. © Claer Barrett / FT

While it is a benefit for small businesses to be able to deposit cash quickly and easily, many are angry with banks for raising rates in a closed state.

Jeff, who runs a stall selling greeting cards, only accepts cash because most items cost less than £ 1. “Cash is now becoming a dirty word,” he complains. Some of his suppliers have blamed the increase in bank charges and no longer accept cash payments from him.

“Many members say cash deposits and withdrawals fees are high and rising,” added Martin McTagg, vice chairman of the Small Business Federation, which is making more and more retailers cashless. It states that it is urging.

Even with the wider adoption of pilot hubs, it may be too late to reverse this trend. Nonetheless, adopting a shared model is an obvious way to maintain the remnants of the UK cash infrastructure at a cost that banks can jointly pay.

Locals in Rochford are aware that if the bank decides to stop the experiment, the pilot’s bank hub may disappear by October. “Have you ever asked if you can still stay?” Frequently asked questions, Cal says. Hopefully it’s something he can answer right away.

Claer Barrett is a consumer editor for FT. claer.barrett@ft.com; twitter @Claerb; Instagram @Claerb

click Here Find out more about FT’s financial literacy and inclusion campaigns or send us an email Financial.literacy@ft.com



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