I was in the Pudsey HSBC branch last week when I saw the sign – ‘from Saturday 16 September this branch will no longer open on a Saturday’, writes John Baron.
While I was pleased to see that opening hours during the week would stay the same I was worried on a number of levels. What if I needed to access my bank and I couldn’t call in on a Saturday? It’s not always easy to get to a branch during the working week …
When I asked one of the ever-helpful assistants who work there why this was happening, she said there just wasn’t demand any more and that people were doing their banking online. She didn’t comment when I suggested it was all down to a greedy bank’s lust for profit.
So I gave in. I asked the helpful assistant to help set me up with internet banking. If you can’t beat the buggers, join ’em!
I’m now a fully paid up member of the internet banking fraternity.
Irony is, when I came out of the office some 15 minutes later, there was at least half a dozen people waiting to be served – so much for not being busy on a Saturday.
But why does this make me mad? Well, call me old fashioned, but I like to have service from my bank, I don’t want to have to push all the buttons myself (I don’t trust myself for starters).
Customers should have a choice of how they do their business and not be forced online, on their phone or to the remaining ‘local’ Saturday branches miles away in Leeds city centre, Morley or Bradford.
I’d happily sacrifice internet access 24-7 for customer service and a personal touch (or maybe a combination of the two).
I’m also reminded of my 79-year-old mother, who repeatedly tells me she doesn’t know what she’ll do if bank branches close completely. She does well for her age but feels too long in the tooth to start an internet learning course and so needs an accessible branch.
Well-formed arguments about it affecting the most vulnerable in society – not forgetting losing a community resource on the high street – are quickly swept under the carpet. The human touch lost forever and replaced by your laptop.
It’s inevitable internet banking will ultimately take over. In many ways it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy – you go into a branch and bank and building society staff are actively encouraging you to carry out your business online.
I feel sorry for them. They’re talking themselves out of jobs.
And when people do move online, it’s inevitable local branches become less relevant for some (and an efficient cost-saving for our lovely friends the bankers).
I’m all for technology and progress, and I’m sure internet banking will undoubtedly come in useful. But I do mourn the loss of service, of human interaction and the closed high street buildings which were once bustling centres of commerce and community. Why can’t we still have both?