A trial project involving bank branches shared by multiple institutions is set to be rolled out across the UK.
The first two bank hubs were launched last year in Essex and Cambuslang, outside Glasgow in Scotland. Both are run by the Post Office and are shared by five high street banks.
Another 13 locations have been designated.. These include another four in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. This brings the total number of banking hubs to 25 with 10 launched last year but yet to open their doors.
The project was set up as a way to counter the effect of widespread closures of banks across the country, particularly in rural or deprived areas.
Bank closures have been happening at an alarming rate, at more than 50 a month over the past five years and with more than 200 closures already this year.
Physical bank branches have been viewed as costly operations for banks for numerous years and efforts have been made to promote self-service within the branches so as to limit the cost of staff.
However, the rise of digital bank, which thrived during the pandemic, has put the traditional high street bank branch under even more pressure.
In August, Barclays announced it would close another 18 branches while in the previous month Lloyds announced it would be closing 66 branches.
Banks are also looking to limit the use of cash. In Ireland, high street bank AIB announced in July that it would be removing ATMs and cash services from 70 of its 170 branches. However, the resulting public outcry led the bank to backtrack on its plan.
The bank closures in the UK have similarly raised concerns about access to cash for certain customers or for small businesses that need to deposit takings.
In June, the UK’s Fianncial Conduct Authority stated that it plans to introduce tougher rules over the closure of bank branches, adding that banks did not seem to fully understand the impact of branch closures on the local communities.
According to Natalie Ceeney CBE, independent chair of the Access to Cash Action Group which represents a number of banking organisations, the hubs are already playing a postive role for local communities by providing essential banking services for individuals and local businesses.
“Extending the pilots gives us more opportunity to really understand what works for people, and what role services like these could play in the future. These are early steps, and over the coming months the Group will explore a wide range of options to protect access to cash,” said Ceeney.
The newly announced hubs are planned for Brechin in Angus, Forres in Moray, Carluke in Lanarkshire, Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, Axminster in Devon, Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, Cheadle in Staffordshire, Belper in Derbyshire, Maryport in Cumbria and Hornsea in east Yorkshire. In addition, the first banking hub under the scheme in Northern Ireland will open in Kilkeel in Newry.