HSBC has revealed plans to close 82 of its branches by the end of September 2021, reducing its network from 593 to 511.
This will take the total number of closures by HSBC since 2015 to 555, meaning it has lost over half of its branches and slipped from the fourth to the seventh-largest network on the high street in that time.
This also means that by the end of the year, HSBC will have closed the third-highest number of banks, behind NatWest (639) and Barclays (605).
Which branches are closing?
The table below shows which HSBC branches will close by 30 September 2021.
HSBC says the dates may be subject to change.
Why is HSBC closing more than 80 branches?
In a statement, HSBC said that even without the additional impact of the pandemic, the number of customers using its branches has fallen by more than a third in the past five years, as more customers bank online.
The bank also says that 81 of the branches being closed are within one mile of a Post Office, where customers can carry out day-to-day transactions.
It’s worth noting that the Post Office is not a stand-in for a bank, though, as you can’t complete more complex activities, such as opening or closing an account, or talking about financial products such as loans or mortgages.
HSBC’s analysis also shows that two thirds of customers will still be within five miles of their nearest HSBC branch.
The closures come in the wake of new branch formats HSBC has been piloting, four of which are being rolled out.
What are the new HSBC branch formats?
HSBC says that it has already begun the process of converting its branches, with the work expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The formats are:
- Full-service branch Offering a full range of services, predominantly based within large cities and towns where branches see a broad range of requests.
- Cash service branch Supporting local communities with a greater need for access to cash, alongside simple over-the-counter servicing and the ability to deal with more complex issues, such as bereavement and Power of Attorney.
- Digital service branch Counterless branches providing ‘traditional’ cash and cheque transactions using self-service technology, with an emphasis on assisting with digital technology adoption and product fulfilment alongside other more complex, non-standard service requests.
- Pop-up branch A temporary, movable, local presence that is flexible and agile, helping customers with ‘in-the-moment’ queries, including help setting up and resetting online and digital banking, providing digital education, guidance and customer support.
How many bank branches are closing?
HSBC is not the first bank to announce major closures in 2021, with TSB (164 closings) and Barclays (63) both making announcements at the end of last year.
Lloyds Banking Group has also confirmed that it will proceed with the closure of 56 branches this year – across its Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands – a move which it had paused in 2020 due to the pandemic.
This flurry of announcements means we already know that there will be more closures this year than there were in 2020.
By the end of 2021, almost 4,000 branches will have closed – more than 40% of them – at a rate of 11 a week.
The chart shows the number of closures (and scheduled closures) for every brand between January 2019 and December 2021
What guidelines must banks follow?
In September, the FCA published its finalised guidance on the steps that banks must take before closing a branch.
The guidelines set out a number of actions that banks must take when making closures, including:
- Informing the FCA of their plans as soon as possible
- Carrying out ‘robust analysis’ in terms of lost access and potential harms, especially for vulnerable customers
- Assessing alternative provisions that are available for customers
- Informing customers of the closures no less than 12 weeks in advance, including making them aware of the alternative provisions they have identified.
The FCA guidelines were introduced in addition to the Access to Banking Standard, a set of similar, voluntary guidelines that the majority of banks had signed up to in 2017.
It was hoped that the move would help arrest the rate at which banks were closing their branches, but these latest announcements suggest these hopes haven’t been borne out.
Gareth Shaw, Which? head of money, said: ‘Huge swathes of the bank branch network have disappeared in recent years, and while coronavirus has accelerated the shift to online banking for some, it’s vulnerable people and those living in rural locations who rely on face-to-face banking that will lose out.
‘These customers need to have reasonable access to a local branch that provides a wide range of banking services, including cash withdrawal facilities. However, this domino effect of closures across the country reinforces concerns that the regulator’s guidance to banks to protect those who still require these services is not going to be enough to address the problem.
‘More action needs to be taken to prevent these people from being cut adrift. If the government and regulator continue to delay on issues such as introducing legislation to protect access to cash, banks will continue to push through changes that will restrict people’s banking options.’
What can I do if my branch is closing?
If there are still other banks’ branches local to you, it could be worth switching. This has been made much easier in recent years, as our guide explains.
Alternatively, you can carry out some basic banking tasks at Post Offices, such as depositing or withdrawing cash.
Many banks now allow you to pay in cheques at the Post Office or virtually via your mobile phone. However, there are limitations to the services the Post Office can replace, as we found in our November 2018 investigation.
If you’re happy to bank online, by phone or app, your choice of banks multiplies. You can find our Which? Recommended Providers here.
- Find out more: best and worst banks