At the height of the ‘Farage’ affair last week, Lloyds sneaked out that it was closing a further 39 branches. That’s the fourth announcement this year, with Lloyds planning to close 176 branches over the next 12 months. Whilst it’s true that there will be no redundancies because of the branch closures, that can’t continue indefinitely especially at the rate Lloyds is closing branches. There will be nowhere left for staff to go.
The Union wrote to MPs a number of weeks ago saying that the ‘big four’ banks continue to dominate the current account and SME markets and the cost of those banks doing business must be that they operate functioning branch networks. A copy of that letter can be found here. BTU is meeting a number of MPs from both main political parties to discuss our concerns about branch closures.
Members will recall that a few months ago we reported that Charlie Nunn, Group Chief Executive, was asked specifically by the Treasury Select Committee about the Group’s plans for closing branches. He said: “We review our network on an ongoing basis but we do not set targets for the number of branches”. So, no targets according to Mr Nunn. However, in a presentation to retail investors, Mr Adam Williams, Head of Competitor Analysis, referring to the Group’s 5-year transformation plan, talked about the progress it had made in closing 200 branches in 2022. The clear implication being that the Group was well on the way to achieving its 2025/26 target of branch closures. The 176 branch closures it’s announced so far this year, are part of that plan.
‘Banking Made Easy’
And in pursuit of that objective of closing more branches, both Lloyds and Halifax have rolled out ‘Banking Made Easy’. Lloyds says of ‘Banking Made Easy’ that:
“It’s a cultural shift for our customers and those of us in the branch, towards a mobile first and supported service bank”. It goes on to say: “We want to guide and support our customers to be able to carry out day-to-day banking themselves. We’ll do this by moving from doing FOR customers to doing WITH customers”.
This programme is about forcing those customers that go into branches to use the mobile app/self-service options by making it difficult for them to get to the counter or enquiries. In fact, in many branches the counters are closed and enquiries desks have disappeared. It’s about unsettling customers and that’s made clear in the customer scenarios being used by the bank. Once you’ve forced customers on to a digital platform, the number of visits they will make to the branch will fall and you can use that lack of footfall as a reason for closing the branch. We’ve seen it before but this looks like the last concerted push by Lloyds and Halifax to make it impossible for customers to do their everyday banking in branches.
Members with any questions on this Newsletter can contact the Union’s Bedford Office on 01234 262868 (Choose Option 1).