HSBC could lose 100 staff in new round of branch closures

HSBC has said that around 100 staff could leave the bank as a result of plans to axe 114 UK branches from April next year.

The bank said it has seen a substantial decline in customers coming into its branches over the last five years, but especially since the pandemic.

Some of the branches closing are currently serving fewer than 250 customers a week, it said.

HSBC stressed that it hopes to redeploy all its employees at affected locations to other roles within HSBC, either to other branches or to a different position.

It plans to speak to all staff in those due to close but it estimates that around 100 employees could lose their jobs.

The group will be investing tens of millions of pounds in updating and improving its existing UK branch network, which will total 327 after the new wave of closures.

It is also developing new “banking hubs” and community pop-ups in its shake-up of the  network and plugging more investment into digital banking services.

Furthermore, since 2021 it has provided 1,500 free Samsung tablet devices to customers selected by local branches who cannot afford or have no access to equipment to help with digital banking, HSBC said.

Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s managing director of UK distribution, said: “People are changing the way they bank and footfall in many branches is at an all-time low, with no signs of it returning. Banking remotely is becoming the norm for the vast majority of us.

“Branches will continue to play an important role in day-to-day banking, while providing specialist face-to-face support in moments that matter.

“In addition to our branch network, customers can access services through the Post Office network, our community pop-ups and soon-to-come banking hubs, alongside Live Chat, social media and through telephone banking.

“The decision to close a branch is never easy or taken lightly, especially if we are the last branch in an area, so we’ve invested heavily in our ‘post closure’ strategy, including providing free tablet devices to selected branch customers who do not already have a device to bank digitally, alongside one-to-one coaching to help them migrate to digital banking.”

Earlier this year, HSBC said it was closing 69 more branches which was expected to hit around 400 workers.

Bank branch and ATM closures generally have fuelled fears about people continuing to be able to access their money.

The Government previously said it will legislate to protect the future of cash.

Industry initiatives which have been set up to plug gaps in cash access have included banking hubs which share facilities between banks, and cashback in shops.

Consumer group Which? said in early November that 587 bank branches had closed so far in 2022.

In October, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published new guidance for providers considering closing branches or ATMs.

Sheldon Mills, executive director consumer and competition at the FCA, said in October: “The industry must make sure they are supporting people and businesses who rely on cash and banking services.”

Previous FCA research has found that people most likely to regularly use a bank branch included those with characteristics of vulnerability, such as people in poor health and those in financial difficulty.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “The decision by HSBC to close a quarter of its bank branch network, after already shutting more than 600 sites since 2015, risks further cutting adrift those who rely on cash – whether it’s to pay everyday essentials or increasingly to manage their finances during the cost-of-living crisis.

“While proposals put forward by the banking industry to offer alternative access to cash could have an important role to play, what’s needed most is long-awaited legislation to guarantee access to cash, giving the Financial Conduct Authority the powers to oversee the cash system.

“What is currently missing from the legislation is a requirement that access to cash is free. MPs should vote to support a cross-party amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill to ensure a minimum level of access to free cash for those who use it, including people on low incomes who will struggle to pay to access their own money.”

Lord Holmes of Richmond, a financial inclusion campaigner, said: “Today’s closures should not surprise us and there will likely be hundreds more next year.

“The question we need to resolve is how we support people who can’t bank digitally. There’s some good work being done around the creation of banking hubs and protecting access to cash, but we desperately need to join the dots and make sure the five million people who rely on cash aren’t left behind.”