Up to half of all bank branches will close in the next five to ten years in a blow to millions of customers, a senior banker warned yesterday.
Antony Jenkins, ex-boss of Barclays, said 3,500 of the UK’s 7,000 branches are at risk.
He stressed the onslaught of closures in the past decade was happening faster than expected as banks slash costs.
Jobs are being axed as more people bank online and office tasks are automated.
Up to half of all bank branches will close in the next five to ten years in a blow to millions of customers, a senior banker warned yesterday
His comments come after consumer group Which? revealed banks had closed almost 3,000 branches in the past three years – around 60 every month.
At the same time, free-to-use cash machines are being scrapped across the country. Critics say the closures have left shopkeepers and vulnerable people in towns and villages abandoned.
Three years ago, Mr Jenkins warned technological changes in Britain would cause an ‘Uber moment’ –like the shake-up in the cab industry – that would see widespread bank branch closures.
But yesterday he admitted he had underestimated the pace of change.
At the moment there are around 7,000 branches operated by the country’s biggest retail banks, including Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Barclays, TSB, Santander, and the Nationwide building society – meaning 3,500 could be at risk.
Mr Jenkins, who ran Barclays from 2012 to 2015, said: ‘I predicted that somewhere between 20 and 50 per cent of the jobs would go away in financial services and about the same number of branches would be closed.
Antony Jenkins, ex-boss of Barclays, said 3,500 of the UK’s 7,000 branches are at risk
‘I think, actually, I under-estimated on the branch closure side. We’ve already seen something like 25 per cent of branches close between 2011 and 2015.
‘My expectation is that at least another 50 per cent of branches will close over the next five to ten years.’ He said an even greater proportion of jobs could also go in the banking industry, including customer service, middle managers and administrative roles.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘These things get automated and the jobs will go away. Of course, new jobs may be created, but my expectation is there will be many fewer than the ones that are eliminated.’
Yesterday the ‘Big Four’ banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS – said they currently operated about 4,500 branches in total across the UK.
They have axed nearly 4,000 in the past decade.
RBS, which runs NatWest, has closed around 1,380. The figure for Lloyds is 1,200, HSBC 800 and Barclays nearly 500.
But there are growing concerns that shutting branches could trigger a rise in fraud, as customers not used to the internet are forced online where they are easy prey for criminals.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘Closing branches cuts costs for the banks, but it’s at best an inconvenience and at worst a serious blow for the millions of older people who are not online or au fait with mobile banking.
‘Older people have the right to make and receive payments in a way that is safe, convenient and affordable and our banks need to live up to their responsibilities.’
UK Finance, which represents banks, insisted that branches were only closed as a last resort.
A spokesman said: ‘Bank branch visits have fallen by a quarter since 2012 with the development of new technology. All major banks offer day-to-day banking services through 11,500 Post Office branches.’