A number of bankless towns across the country could soon benefit from a new type of shared bank branch on their high street, after previously being ruled out.
The move will be welcomed by many bank customers, particularly the elderly and small businesses who prefer to do their banking in person or need to make regular deposits.
Among the cities currently potentially interested in such a bank – where customers of all major banks can deposit and withdraw cash – is Windsor in Royal Berkshire.
In August this year, this bustling city, which attracts thousands of tourists every day, lost its last bank when Barclays closed its branch on the corner of the city’s High Street, directly opposite the castle.
Other unbanked communities that could benefit include Harpenden in Hertfordshire, Tonbridge in Kent and Melksham in Wiltshire.
Closings: Since the beginning of last year, more than 1,150 branches have closed or announced future closures, leaving dozens of communities unbanked
Experts believe at least 27 cities could now be granted a shared branch – often known as a banking center – after being denied one.
This boost to high street banking in so-called “banking deserts” is the result of a restructuring by Cash Access UK – a not-for-profit company set up last year to set up shared bank branches in cities where banks have closed all of their premises.
Since the start of last year, more than 1,150 branches have closed or announced future closures, leaving dozens of communities unbanked.
Cash Access UK will today confirm that Nationwide will no longer be among the nine financial organizations providing it with funding to open the new hubs.
Nationwide’s decision is based on the fact that the company should not contribute to the creation of a network of hubs if it does not benefit from the savings resulting from branch closures.
A typical bank branch costs £300,000 a year to run, compared to £250,000 for a hub – the cost is split across all banks.
Having just undergone a major rebranding, the building society wants to focus its resources on marketing its 605 branches, which it plans to keep open until at least 2026.
With all major banks reducing their branch networks, Nationwide now has the most branches of any lender and is looking to capitalize on this to boost new business. The TV advertising campaign, starring Dominic West, lampoons the archetypal self-proclaimed bank boss.
Banking hubs: Cities now potentially eligible for such a bank – through which customers of all major banks can deposit and withdraw cash – include Windsor in Royal Berkshire (pictured)
Connected: Other unbanked communities that could benefit include Harpenden in Hertfordshire and Whitstable in Kent (pictured)
If Nationwide withdraws, Cash Access UK will be freed up to install hubs in cities where all the banks have disappeared but the building society remains.
The current agreement prevents this, meaning that towns with a remaining Nationwide branch do not benefit from a hub, although – unlike traditional banks – the building society does not offer banking services to small businesses, clubs or charities.
Many small businesses need to deposit cash and checks, which they can do through a hub. In recent months, banking expert Derek French has called for this anomaly to be addressed.
Is your city on the list?
- Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
- Bourne, Lincolnshire
- Burgess Hill, West Sussex
- Colwyn Bay, Wales
- Dagenham, Greater London
- Dorking, Surrey
- Faversham, Kent
- Hailsham, East Sussex
- Harpenden, Hertfordshire
- Hertford, Hertfordshire
- Leatherhead, Surrey
- Leigh on Sea, Essex
- March, Cambridgeshire
- Marlow, Buckinghamshire
- Marple, Lancashire
- Melksham, Wiltshire
- Penarth, Wales
- Pocklington, North Yorks
- Pontypool, Wales
- Ripley, Derbyshire
- Saffron Walden, Essex
- Sandbach, Cheshire
- Seaford, East Sussex
- Tonbridge, Kent
- Uckfield, East Sussex
- Whitstable, Kent
- Windsor, Berkshire
His hometown of Harpenden is not eligible for a hub due to Nationwide’s presence.
He believes today’s announcement from Cash Access UK could mean towns like Harpenden now get the hub they need.
John Howells is managing director of the Link ATM network, which decides which cities are eligible for a hub.
He told Money Mail that many “big cities” that were previously denied a hub were now likely to qualify for one. “We believe a number of larger cities require banking centers to support existing nationwide branches, post offices and ATMs.”
“We will urgently work with the banks to change the criteria we use to bring a number of these larger communities into scope.”
“We have also asked Cash Access UK to be prepared to include a number of sites in its banking center opening program.”
Ten banking centers have been set up across the country so far, although 92 have been sanctioned by Link.
Gareth Oakley, managing director of Cash Access UK, said: “One of our founding companies, Nationwide, has decided to serve its customers through its own branches from January 2024.”
“We are still looking forward to opening hubs in 30 communities by Christmas and opening 60 more next year.”
“Our member banks and Link will now work together to assess any impact of the building society’s decision on the cash supply in communities.”
Customers nationwide can still use the hubs, but only to withdraw cash and obtain an up-to-date account balance.
Nationwide says: “We invest in and have the largest branch network in the UK.”
“We remain committed to ensuring our customers have access to cash and personal services on the high street.” “We hope to see banking centers across the country thrive by providing services to underserved communities.”
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