Fighting the tide of change
Bank branches have been closing at alarming rate throughout the country, despite repeated complaints from customers, politicians, and organisations such as Age Scotland.
For context, we’re talking about nearly 10,000 branches being closed across the UK over the last 25 years.
In Scotland, there are now a third fewer bank branches in our communities than there were in 2010. A caller to Age Scotland’s freephone helpline, which provides information, friendship, and advice, told us that after forgetting her account password, a telephone advisor told her she would have to “pop in” to her nearest branch. The only problem was that she lived in rural Perthshire and the closest one involved a journey of almost two hours on two different buses.
While many people now do their banking online, it’s too easy for Banks to forget that not everyone uses the internet or feels confident banking online.
Indeed, 37% of people over the age of 60 in Scotland do not use the internet – the equivalent to the size of Edinburgh’s population at 500,000. This is hardly an insubstantial number of people.
The need to future-proof
In pushing ahead with branch closures and the relentless push to digital services, banks are at risk of alienating a huge chunk of the Scottish population – not just older people.
Age Scotland believes that people shouldn’t be disadvantaged for making the choice to bank offline.
Research has shown that 67% of people over 75 don’t use the internet at all. They are also much more likely to be targeted for scams, so it’s important that the option for a face-to-face conversation about their finances is available. Indeed, banks should be future proofing their facilities ensuring they’re age and dementia friendly in order to not alienate our ageing population.
But does it have to be all doom and gloom? We don’t think so.
Alternatives to online banking
Joint Bank Branches, or a Shared Banking Hub is an initiative Age Scotland has been campaigning for. This would see Banks sharing a physical space in order to save money whilst also benefiting older people who prefer face-to-face interactions.
The idea of Shared Banking Hubs in smaller communities where there is less footfall is gaining support from older people and politicians. Most recently the UK Parliament’s Treasury Committee recommended that shared Bank Branch facilities should be considered in their inquiry on Consumers’ access to financial services.
We believe this should also include shared mobile branches that have reliable telecommunications, are designed appropriately for all customers including those with disabilities and all weathers and are open for a sufficient amount of time at each location to support people with limit mobility.
Read more about age-friendly banking here– Age UK’s Age Friendly Banking Report
Ashleigh de Verteuil is a Policy Officer at Age Scotland
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can contact the Age Scotland free helpline on 0800 12 44 222, Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age