Bank branch closures a problem for older people

Some 10,000 bank branches have closed in the last 25 years – that's over half of all branches across the UK – leaving hundreds of thousands of older people without access to basic banking services.

Using the Post Office and mobile branches are possible solutions

Faced with the decline of traditional banking and the rise of new approaches including online banking, charity Age UK is calling for more consideration of the needs of older customers and how these can best be met, particularly in rural areas which have been hard-hit by branch closures. 

Many older people not online

In conjunction with the AARP – a US-based membership organisation for the over-50s – Age UK has explored some of the ways in which some progressive banks are trying to ensure older people's banking needs are properly met. In a new report, the charity showcases examples of good practice which, if rolled out more widely, could revolutionise the way in which the banks interact with older people and transform their customers’ experience for the better.

Some 4.5 million over-65s in the UK are not online – for many different reasons:

  • For some the cost of getting online is prohibitively high
  • A lack of computer or digital skills or access to training puts many off
  • Concerns about security issues amid frequent reports of scams
  • Older people face increasing difficulties with mobility, physical disabilities such as sight loss, hearing loss or arthritis, or cognitive decline which can make it difficult to remember passwords and security codes.

Older people prefer face-to-face banking

Age UK is calling for all banks and building societies to move faster and work harder to respond to the needs of our ageing society. While a minority of older people use internet banking most have a preference for in-branch banking, preferring face-to-face service and the security of seeing their bank transaction take place and receiving a paper record to prove it. But with shrinking bank networks there is a question mark over how banks can continue to provide this sort of service.

Possible solutions

Age UK says that potential solutions include telebanking, enhanced use of the Post Office, joint bank branches and mobile branches. Its report highlights the successful Mobile Branch Banking service provided by RBS Group which covers over 11,000 miles and serves 600 communities each week, providing services including cash transactions, bill payments, account balances and cheque deposits.

5 key ways to create an age-friendly bank 

  1. Customer service – make sure that staff are trained to recognise the specific needs of older people, to listen to what customers say to them and to respond appropriately, especially with regard to cognitive decline, scams and financial abuse.
  2. Branch accessibility– design branches to be easily accessible, arrange suitable alternative physical services in the absence of a branch, ensure all customers know about accessibility options.
  3. Systems – make sure information is handled reliably and processes are carried out in ways that meet the needs of older customers.
  4. Products – remove arbitrary age limits and design financial products to fit the shape of later life as it's lived today.
  5. How a bank sees itself – a bank is a community of stakeholders with a variety of interests, situated within a larger society. The more a bank sees itself as interdependent with that larger society and with responsibilities to all its stakeholders, the easier it will be for the bank to adopt practices that are friendly to older people.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says: "By listening to older people and implementing new approaches intelligently the financial services sector can make real progress towards meeting the needs of an ageing society.  That's why we're urging every financial service provider to put 'age-friendliness' at the heart of their propositions. Not only is this good for older people, it can make great business sense as well."

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