The Government recognises that cash remains an important part of daily life for millions of people across the UK, including those who may be in vulnerable groups or elderly.
In recognition of this, the Government has introduced legislation to protect access to cash as part of the Financial Services and Markets Bill. The Bill intends to establish the Financial Conduct Authority as the lead regulator for cash access and provide it with appropriate powers to seek to ensure reasonable provision of withdrawal and deposit facilities.
The FCA has issued clear guidance that firms are expected to carefully consider the impact of planned branch closures on their customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs and consider possible alternative access arrangements. For example, for consumers and SMEs wishing to access over-the-counter services, the Post Office Banking Framework allows 99% of personal banking and 95% of business banking customers to carry out their everyday banking at 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK.
Following the Government’s commitment to legislate, firms are also working together through the Cash Action Group to develop new initiatives to provide shared services. This includes a process for LINK (which operates the UK’s main ATM network) to assess a community’s needs in the event of a closure of a core cash service or community request and determine if additional facilities are required, such as a shared bank hub. Industry has announced locations for 23 bank hubs to date, in addition to two existing pilot sites. Further details on the assessment process and locations of each bank hub are available on LINK’s website: https://www.link.co.uk/initiatives/bank-branch-closures/.
The Government welcomes the direction set by industry’s commitments and looks forward to seeing what results they deliver in protecting facilities for local communities across the UK.