I read this article with a sense of irony a few weeks ago, Business Secretary Vince Cable urging banks to keep branches open in the high streets. The reason I say irony is this comes from the same government that committed to selling off Royal Mail, and allowing hundreds of local post offices to be shut, post offices that gave local communities much-needed access to services such as banking. I have read that the government has suggested that if banks were to continue retreating from the High Street, Royal Mail would be forced to re-open some offices – there’s the irony!
I can see neither the banks nor the government coming out of this well. The government has just shown that their policies are flawed – pensioners, parents with small children, and the ill are amongst the many who need access to local banking services, often not being able to travel or use online services, and should have a right to this. Saying it is the banks responsibility just does not cut it, the government has withdrawn any other means to access state benefits and pensions than through a bank account, it is the governments responsibility that those most in need are able to access their money.
On the other hand, it also shows that despite their continual claim to the contrary, banks are still putting the making of profits as their number one goal. Customers that rely on local services are often those with the least value in the eyes of the bank, and it is easy for managers to argue the need to meet their shareholder obligations and drive their business forward. But, they are still a service industry that relies on customer goodwill, remove the basics of banking, ie. providing a service to all your customers comes at a price. It’s easy for the average person to believe that these moves have no effect on them, when they can continue to access on-line services and travel to a branch, but what will happen when that situation arises where you are desperate to actually sit face-to-face with a real banker and discuss the biggest decisions you might need to make. You’ll soon see wish that there was still some consideration for real customer needs then.