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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 May, 2005, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Banks reject shared branches
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

The Newmilns branch of Clydesdale Bank which may be one of the banks threatened by closure
Glasgow-based Clydesdale Bank is losing 60 of 217 branches

The big five High Street banks have ruled out sharing branches as a way to keep at least one bank open in small towns and villages.

The snub comes just as 100 communities in Scotland and the North of England have learned their Clydesdale or Yorkshire branch will shortly close.

But they are just the latest in a long series of bank and building society branch closures, most of which happened in the 1990s, when 6000 out of 20,000 branches disappeared.

The Campaign for Community Banking Services (CCBS), a coalition of 28 charities and consumer groups, had hoped the banks might accept its plans for "white label" branches, where various High Street competitors shared the same shopfront and cut overheads.

But the British Bankers' Association (BBA), speaking for all High Street banks, decisively rejected the plans.

Previous trial

In a letter to the campaign, the BBA said:

Man at computer
More and more customers are using telephone and internet banking
"Our members already provide network services and a range of other delivery channels... and do not believe a network of white label outlets in addition would be useful or cost-effective."

But Derek French of the CCBS told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme:

"Most of the technical problems have been overcome.

"It has worked in the USA and it has been validated in the UK as operationally feasible and financially viable by academics in our own study."

There was a potentially adverse effect on the Post Office
Joanna Elson, BBA
The banks reject this view. Joanna Elson, Executive Director of the British Bankers' Association, told Money Box:

"We did test a version of this a couple of years ago in 10 different places across the country and... despite publicity very few customers used it - one in 14 personal customers and one in 18 small business customers.

"And there was a potentially adverse effect on the Post Office. In small communities you don't want to have an adverse effect on the Post Office."

She said that where Clydesdale had closed branches the local post office could be used as an alternative.

Continuing trend

But Derek French rejected her views:

The case for individual banks remaining in larger and larger communities will disappear
Derek French, CCBS
"I could challenge virtually everything about that pilot they did. We predicted it would fail and in fact it did," he said.

He also rejected the idea that the growing use of telephone and internet banking meant branches were more and more irrelevant:

"The fact that more and more use alternative delivery channels is the strongest reason for shared branching.

"As that trend continues, which it undoubtedly will, the case for individual banks remaining in larger and larger communities will disappear.

"So the only way for maintaining a service that can be offered to those that can't use these, small businesses are a classic example, will be through the shared branch."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 14 May, 2005, at 1204 BST.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 15 May at 2102 BST.

Money Box



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