Another day and another round of branch closures. According to the latest announcement 53 branches (21 Lloyds, 10 BoS and 22 Halifax) will close between June 2024 and January 2025. Members of staff in the 53 branches will be offered roles in other branches but in many cases that will involve more travelling. Members with any individual concerns should speak to the Union’s Advice Team.

This won’t be the last branch closure announcement this year. We expect that in the run up to the general election Lloyds, and all the other big four banks, will accelerate their branch closure programmes. The Labour Party has made it clear that it intends to bring in regulatory powers that would prevent communities from becoming “banking deserts”. The idea is to turbo charge the expansion of banking Hubs linked to the Post Office network but manned by the staff from the different banks for one day a week. It’s not ideal, we would prefer that the big four banks, who dominate the current account and small business markets, are forced to operate branch networks based on the number of current account customers. That said, banking Hubs could work but the numbers need to be increased significantly. And the big four banks should pay for the costs of that expansion. There are currently, 21 banking Hubs in England, 7 in Scotland, 2 in Wales and 1 in Northern Ireland. The plan is to increase the number of Hubs by 54, 6, 6 and 1 respectively. That’s simply not enough. One of the criticisms of the current approach is that it’s taking too long to set up these Hubs. That’s because the big four banks are involved in the process. They need to be side-lined. We will be campaigning for the criteria for determining where banking Hubs are located to be changed so that more communities have access to banking services. The big four banks will oppose it, but they should be told that’s the cost of doing business in the UK.

Once all the party candidates have been selected to stand in the forthcoming general election, we will be writing to them individually asking for their support in expanding the number of banking Hubs, not only in their prospective constituencies but across the whole of the UK.

We now know that the so-called ‘challenger’ banks are not the answer. The big four banks are too dominant. Fintech and neobanks are also not the answer. The big four banks can pour substantial resources into incorporating and adapting the fintech and neobank approaches to change into their operations. And if that doesn’t work, then the big four will just buy the fintechs before they get chance to grow, thus preserving their dominant position. And the big-four banks will be doing this whilst at the same time trying to move away from their very expensive legacy systems. MBNA, part of Lloyds Banking Group, recently launched a new savings account offering a 5% return and it’s the first product to be hosted on Thought Machine’s Vault, which is a cloud-based core banking platform. Over time Vault is set to replace the Bank’s current core banking system. That would reduce the Bank’s costs base by up to 15% and secure its market dominance.

We will be returning to these issues in future Newsletters. In the meantime, members with any questions on this Newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).


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