diamond geezer

 Monday, June 07, 2021

Santander are closing a lot of branches over the next three months, 111 in total, as they trim their network to match future usage. This cull removes 20% of their existing branches and comes on top of a similar 20% cut in 2019.
Oh, I was hoping for a post about something else today. I'm not really interested in Santander, I don't bank with them.
Like many other banks Santander are out to make savings as customers increasingly move online. They claim branch transactions fell by 33% over the two years before the pandemic and declined by a further 50% in 2020, and also that two thirds of overall transactions are now digital.
I can't remember the last time I went into a bank. There was that time I had to make a physical transaction, and that time I needed face-to-face authorisation, but mostly I just juggle everything online.
The branches being closed are all within three miles of another branch, which Santander have decided is a reasonable travelling distance, plus they've checked there'll always be an ATM and Post Office nearby.
We used to think nothing of queueing for our money, but you'd never get away with that these days. I remember I once went into my local bank with a large bag of halfpennies, it was Williams & Glyn's, anyone remember them?
If you live somewhere like Shrewsbury or Yeovil where there are no other nearby towns, no worries. Elsewhere Margate is closing in favour of Ramsgate, Runcorn's been usurped by Widnes and Bletchley's losing out to Milton Keynes. But the axe is mostly falling within large conurbations... and especially in London where 40 of the 111 closures will take place.
You've also reminded me of cheques! They were amazing, I can't believe we used to rely on small pieces of paper sent through the post, my so-called signature was virtually unintelligible, and we always got the year wrong in January!

I spotted the significance of London's Santander slimdown while on a visit to the City. The branch in Bishopsgate and the branch in Moorgate are both closing, with posters outside advising existing customers to switch to branches in Cheapside or Islington instead. It turns out the unprepossessing branch on Cheapside will in future be Santander's sole outpost in the City of London, which seems extraordinary in what's supposed to be London's financial centre.
Moorgate to Upper Street is easy enough, you take the Northern line there and back, it sounds like a fun adventure. I wouldn't like to do it regularly but like I said I don't go into banks any more so that's fine.
The recommendation to go to Islington surprised me because it's a fair distance away, over two miles. The High Holborn branch is currently closer but that's closing on 8th July. The London Bridge branch is closer but that's closing on 15th July. Even the Bethnal Green branch is closer, but that's also closing on 15th July. Islington's somehow the next nearest left.
There were banks on every street once, there were banks everywhere, you couldn't move for banks. But as someone who's never lived or worked in the City of London these changes all seem perfectly reasonable.
When I was in Barking last week I noticed their branch is closing too. This time the two recommended alternatives are Ilford and East Ham, both within three miles but still not entirely convenient. I see the branch in Dagenham is closing too which'll leave the borough of Barking and Dagenham (population 212,000) in the extraordinary position of having no Santander branches at all.
Other banks exist. Residents of B&D could always switch to Barclays or the Halifax, which I assume will still have branches left, or at least they do now. If Santander want to lose customers who insist on turning up in person I suspect that'll only boost their profits.

This map shows branches staying open (red) and branches closing (black) across north and east London. It's fascinating to see a visual representation of the thinning out of the network... or extremely annoying if you happen to be a customer about to lose their closest branch. Many such people exist, as evidenced by the long queues outside banks and building societies during lockdown. [branch locator map]
It's just some coloured dots scattered across an area I have no interest in. At first glance it looks like there are more red dots than black dots anyway, so surely nobody will be disadvantaged? Santander's accountants know what they're doing.
No other London boroughs will end up with no Santanders, but Harrow, Hounslow, Kingston, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham will now only have one, and Merton only had one anyway. If you think of each of these boroughs as having a population far larger than most provincial towns and cities, it's a significant inconvenience.
What you've forgotten to mention are all the employees who'll be made redundant by these closures. Hire a few more phone monkeys and these awkward salaried pensioned staff are easily dispensed with. Still, at least it keeps my bank charges down.
I suspect this confirms that Santander (and other banks) would love to close a lot more branches, but it's only within densely populated places like London that they can proceed with impunity. Our suburbs are close together by national standards, so we increasingly get to waste our time and money travelling for face-to-face services so that shareholders can prosper.
I don't use banks any more, not unless I absolutely have to, so I genuinely don't see what the problem is. Business has to move with the times.
Anyway, think of Santander's latest closures as a snapshot of the journey to debankification and as an example of the wider digitalisation of society. Most of us have already proved we don't need to go out to get on with our lives. Before long the others may not have much of a choice.

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