Branching Out

31 Jan 2017

If you’re a fan of banking in-branch, then the bleakest month of the year has certainly lived up to its billing in 2017. In fact, if you’re a fan of banking in-branch then you’re probably on the wrong website, but we’re thrilled to have you here.

First up, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group announced the closure of 79 branches on the 18th January. There was a bit of respite (just under a week) until HSBC added to the list on the 24th January, with another 62 branches set to close. And if that wasn’t enough, Norwich and Peterborough swiftly followed suit and announced on 25th January that 48 of their branches will be closing this year.

Can you keep up? Well to help you out, that’s a total of 189 branches being designated for closure in the space of a week.

As the HSBC story in the Guardian points out, this move is predictably a result of an increasingly digital focus. HSBC have themselves stated that this represents the end of their “branch restructuring programme”, but it’s not without a significant impact on thousands of people across the UK.

Back in June 2015, a report by the BBA revealed that a person’s nearest branch in the UK was a 4.4 minute drive away (while their preferred branch was 7.4 minutes away). At the time of that report, the figures revealed you were 2.8 minutes closer, on average, to the nearest pub, and half a mile closer (again, on average) to the nearest supermarket.

So there are the statistics, but what does it all mean?

While we don’t doubt the fact that many people still depend on branches, it’s impossible to overlook the growing trend for people to manage their money digitally. Someone over the age of 80 may disagree (the 2015 BBA report showed them to visit a branch 14.8 times per year, which is just over 6 times more than the average UK adult), but it’s a pattern that will only continue.

That’s the reason why our entire focus is on providing a digital service. If not having a branch may seem strange to some people, then we’ve taken it a step further. Not only do we not have a branch, but we don’t have a telephone number (trust me, you can search high and low on our website and you won’t find one).

Why is this a step forward?

When we say we’re focusing on providing a “digital service”, the second word in that phrase is more important than the first. After all, if even the likes of HSBC are moving in the way of ‘digital’ then we can hardly list that as one of our personal account’s main assets. The closure of a branch is only as good as the service that it’s replaced by.

Digital is a given nowadays, but service is not. And when we say service, we mean everything from the way we interact with our account holders to the facilities we provide in their account.

No matter how loyal you are to your branch, you won’t get the benefits that come with:

  • A live chat link into one of our team of Unbanking Agents (already open at the same hours as the branch, with plans to extend it)
  • Extra Accounts to help you set money aside for whatever reason you choose
  • A Money Manager that allows you to track spending patterns and have a full view of your financial habits

And if that isn’t enough, then the upcoming release of the first iteration of our brand new U App takes our service to the next level. If our contactless card (which we told you about last month) represents the idea of payments ‘on-the-move’, then our new app does the same for managing your money.

In 2017, the key figure shouldn’t be how far away you are from your nearest branch. It should be how far away you are from your laptop, mobile or tablet.

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