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August 24, 2017

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Banks in UK to close record 762 branches in 2017

BANKS in Britain are set to close a record 762 branches this year, depriving more customers of access to in-person financial services as lenders cut costs by pushing business online.

The number of branches shut or set for closure so far this year is more than the 583 closed in 2016 and is the most on record, according to a Reuters analysis of bank announcements, academic studies and government data.

Banks and building societies in Britain have been shutting branches at a rate of around 300 per year since 1989, a trend which has accelerated in recent years as lenders respond to pressure on profits by slashing costly physical outlets.

Royal Bank of Scotland is set to close 244 branches this year, Lloyds Banking Group will shut 195, while HSBC and Barclays will close 117 and 90 to 100 respectively.

That will leave Britain with around 8,000 bank branches by the end of the year, according to a Reuters calculation of the bank's statements, compared with 17,831 in 1989, according to data from the University of Nottingham.

The accelerating pace of closures has caused concern among lawmakers and campaigners, who say it is often the most vulnerable customers and businesses that bear the brunt as banks consolidate branches in big cities.

Reuters reported in June last year that Britain’s largest banks are disproportionately closing branches in the lowest-income areas.

Politicians in a subsequent parliamentary debate said the findings showed the “quiet scandal” of branch closures, which research has showed can also halve lending to small businesses in impacted areas.

Banks say they are responding to changing patterns of customer behavior and that they are providing options for those who can’t or won’t bank online.

A spokeswoman for Co-Operative Bank, set to shut 10 branches this year, said its customers can do everyday transactions in any of 11,500 Post Office branches in Britain.


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