Star comment: Pity banks don’t show us loyalty
Our banks – the physical buildings where you can go in and talk to somebody about your money – are disappearing before our very eyes.
The list of closures in towns across Shropshire and Mid Wales in the last few years is a long one. Shifnal is one place which will soon have no more banks to close.
Despite a great expansion in housing, and population, Barclays is shutting its branch in the town on October 20. And then there will be none.
Shifnal is not an exception, it’s more like the rule now except in the really big towns and cities. This is a pattern of loss of services which we have seen with the closure of village schools, local shops, pubs, social clubs and the like.
The way of the world, you could say. And the banks will justify the closures by saying that these days everybody, or almost everybody, does their banking online and relatively few people make the effort to walk into a bank.
Maintaining a physical bank and staffing costs money, which is a dent to the bank’s profits when the footfall is so meagre. Close the bank and you make “efficiency savings”. But the death of the small banks has been an assisted death. Reducing opening hours and downgrading smaller banks has helped the decline, and it suits the banking bosses if people make the switch online.
This is a switch from banks in which they serve you, to banks in which you have to serve yourself. For people who prefer not to use the internet, or do not really know how and do not want to learn, or have such rubbish broadband speeds that doing so is problematic anyway, they are being presented with a whole new world of hassle and inconvenience.
To visit a bank to discuss this or that, a customer in rural Shropshire or Mid Wales now faces a significant journey and the prospect of dealing with strangers in a strange town, rather than the friendly and familiar local staff they had been used to.
Effectively forcing most customers to use the internet also potentially exposes them to a whole host of sophisticated online frauds and if they fall victim the attitude of the banks is likely to be that they should have been more careful.
Bank customers show astonishing levels of loyalty to their particular bank. But banks are not showing the same loyalty to communities which have supported them for so long, and the gaps in the street scene will be difficult to fill.