As big banks retreat from the high street and challengers opt for digital, do we still need bank branches?

Self-Service and Mobile Banking: The rise of technology is killing of bank high street branches

  • Hundreds of bank branch closures have happened in recent years
  • Rise of technology means banks are focusing on digital offerings
  • One challenger bank boss believes branch decline is ‘irreversible’

They may be financial titans but that hasn’t stopped the big banks closing branches in a move that resembles an all-out retreat from high streets up and down Britain. Lloyds Bank recently announced a planned cut of an extra 200 branches citing a drop in branch use coupled with concerns over costs.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Barclays, HSBC and RBS announced hundreds of branch cuts as hundreds of communities face up to a future without banking staff around to help. For many, this has come as a shock but for finance start-ups and digitally-led so-called challenger banks, such moves tally with a trend for branchless banking. So will we continue to need bank branches?

The digital banks who don’t want branches

A growing breed of new, so-called ‘digital challenger banks’ are serving customers using mobile applications, not bank cashiers. This includes Atom Bank which recently launched best buy savings accounts which could only be accessed through its app. Meanwhile, Starling Bank also revealed that it has received a banking license and its founder, Anne Boden, said ‘the emphasis moves from regulation and technology to customers’.

Tom Bloomfield, the founder of banking start-up Mondo, says banks withdrawing from the high street ‘is an irreversible trend in the industry’. He added: ‘Mondo is very lucky because we have customers that use their smartphones and not their branches.