Many cities are down to their last bank – or have nothing at all – as the big banks continue to cut back their branch networks as a result of the rise of online banking.
Although many clients appreciate the ease of banking online, a vast number of the population, particularly the aged, who are less familiar with the latest technology or just don’t trust it, are being cut off from banking.
‘I just like speaking to a human being.’
Gail Richmond, 70, who chairs the area’s U3A, a social club for the elderly, said some of her members felt very uncertain about starting use of online banking.
“I don’t use online banking at all,” she said. “I know it’s silly, but I just don’t feel it’s secure enough. I can do certain things on the computer, such as email, but I still have to ask for help with other things. I think there are quite a few people like me. I just like speaking to a human being. If you want a loan, for instance, you can go in and see someone – people do like that.”
Gail Richmond added, “I don’t use online banking. I’m pretty clued up on computers, but I don’t trust them for that,” said the resident, who did not wish to be named. “I would rather go into a bank as it’s so much simpler. I deal with computers all the time at work, and the last thing I want is to do more faffing about with one at home. I still want to do everything with paper.”
He stated he now waited for one of his tours to Totnes, Exeter or London and did all his banking then. He added that the closing of the Lloyds branch had caused problems as it had left the city with only four cash machines.
“There was a bank holiday on a Friday recently and all the cash machines had run out of money by Saturday afternoon,” he said. “All the tourists who wanted to get money out were stuck.”
Access to the Internet
A 74-year-old Dartmouth resident said he was yet to be switched to online banking, although being familiar with technology in other areas.
Caroline Abrahams, a director of Age UK, said the charity regularly heard from older adults who were striving to deal with their money. “The increasing reliance on online banking is difficult for many, particularly the high numbers who don’t have smartphones or internet access,” she said.
“There is still quite a sizeable proportion of the population, on our assessment about four million people, who are not online at all, let alone able to do internet banking. And that figure is not changing fast enough to justify the withdrawal of branch-based services.
“The effect of branch closures is to leave some customers – especially older people who are offline or live in rural areas – stranded and many towns and suburbs without any bank branch at all.”
“Problems are exacerbated when branch closures coincide with areas of poor bus services, poor internet connections and mobile black spots, making both digital and ‘real world’ alternatives difficult for customers to access,” she added.
Banks are making efforts to mitigate the problems caused by bank closures. Lloyds is operating out a fleet of mobile banks and strives to have 16 on-the-road-banks by the end of 2017.
A Lloyds spokesman said: “Our new fleet of mobile branches provides a vital service to customers in rural and semi-rural communities, alongside other ways to access banking locally.
“We remain committed to our branch network, and branches will continue to play an important role in our multichannel approach to meeting customer needs.”
About Dartmouth, the spokesman said:
“The branch had only 38 regular customers, which had forced the bank to make the difficult decision to close it. One of our new mobile branches now visits Dartmouth twice a week, and personal customers are able to use this for many of their everyday banking needs.”