FCA urges stronger focus on customer impact of branch and ATM closures

Regulator moves to embed principle of access to cash as digital services grow.

UK banks considering the closure of local branches or ATMs are being asked to give greater consideration to the impact on customers under new guidance issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The new document issued by the FCA extends to cover partial closures too.

Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s Executive Director Consumer and Competition, said: “We want banks to support more people to get the benefits of innovative digital services. However, we know that for many, having a branch or ATM nearby their home is an essential part of looking after their household finances.

Supporting people and businesses

“The industry must make sure they are supporting people and businesses who rely on cash and banking services. That is why we’ve published updated guidance for banks that are considering branch closures and reminded them that we want alternatives, such as banking hubs, delivered quickly and as a priority.”

Banks are urged to consider the impact of planned closures and service reductions on customers’ everyday banking needs. The FCA said: “Where the need for an alternative is identified, firms should now make sure it is in place and accessible before a branch closes or an ATM is converted.”

Good practice

The new guidance was accompanied by the publication of a list of examples of what the FCA considers good practice.

The FCA also noted the provision of new powers in the Financial Services and Markets Bill intended to protect access to cash. “The FCA welcomes these proposed powers, which will help to ensure reasonable access to cash,” it said. “However, they will not extend to the provision of wider banking services and are not specifically directed towards the maintenance of branch networks.”