June 20 2013 Latest news:
Adam Aiken, Editor
Friday, September 2, 2011
All high-street banks should allow customers full access to their current accounts at post offices, according to a report by a leading consumer group.
There is real demand from bank customers for such a service, says Consumer Focus, and it would also be a boost to the future of the post office network, which has been increasingly under threat in recent years.
At the moment, while some banks allow their customers to carry out all day-to-day transactions at post offices, others offer only a limited service.
Meanwhile, HSBC does not offer post office banking at all, and the only high-street customers that Santander offers it to are people with basic bank accounts and customers it inherited from the former Alliance & Leicester.
The Consumer Focus report – called Counter Measures – says that if all the major banks offered a full service via post offices, the number of people who would take advantage of it could increase from nearly four million at the moment to as many as 18 million.
“Our research shows there is real consumer appetite to do everyday banking over post office counters,” said Andy Burrows, of Consumer Focus.
“Four out of five people were unaware they could access their accounts through a post office, with two fifths of this group telling us they would consider doing so if they knew it were possible.”
About a third of all bank and building society branches have closed over the past 15 years, with more than 2,200 of them closing since the turn of the century.
There are now more post offices in the UK than bank and building society branches combined, and Consumer Focus said the post office network had 10 times as many branches as some leading banks now did.
Mr Burrows said: “Thousands of UK communities have only one bank branch, or even none at all, with more bank closures likely in the future. Better current account access at post offices would be a win-win situation – customers enjoy the convenience of more face-to-face counter access and the post office network benefits from greater footfall. This should help lead to a more sustainable future for the post office network.”
At the moment, Halifax, Lloyds TSB, the Co-operative Bank, Smile, Cahoot, Clydesdale and Bank of Ireland offer their customers a full current account service at post offices.
The likes of Barclays, First Direct, Nationwide, Natwest and Royal Bank of Scotland allow some transactions, but Consumer Focus wants them to turn this into a full service, with cash withdrawals, deposits and balance inquiries all on the agenda.
HSBC said it continued to speak to the Post Office about their relationship and what services they offered together, such as cash facilities for basic bank account customers.
“However, our position must be based on our own customers’ views and requirements,” a spokesman said. “We conducted in-depth research among our customers with regards to accessibility of their accounts at post offices, and only one in 10 thought it would improve our service.
“With the predominant requirement being access to cash, all our customers can withdraw cash at more than 60,000 cash machines in the UK, versus 12,000 post offices.
“So although our position may change in the future, our current stance reflects the overwhelming weight of our customers’ opinion.”
Santander said post offices processed more than 100 million transactions a year on its behalf, and it emphasised it had recently launched three new business banking products that could be accessed via post offices.
“A variety of Santander customers continue to choose to visit post offices each day,” a spokesman for the bank said.
“All Santander basic bank account customers and ex-Alliance & Leicester customers retain Post Office access on their accounts, and new business banking and commercial and corporate customers are offered post offices as a channel if they need cash-depositing facilities.”