Post Office launches ‘BankHubs’ for cash and banking access amid UK bank branch closures | Personal Finance | Finance
The two BankHubs have opened today in Rockford and Cambuslang. The centres are part of the Communities Access to Cash Pilots (CACP) initiative.
The first BankHubs are part of eight pilot communities involved in the initiative.
They will offer local customers basic banking and cash services via their local Post Office, in the wake of widespread bank branch closures.
As well as the basic banking and cash services, there will be dedicated rooms where customers can see community bankers from their own bank.
Across the other six communities involved, other ideas being piloted include cashback from local shops, automated deposit taking machines for small businesses to deposit their takings, new ATMs, and digital services to make it easier for people to get cash and manage small change.
Worryingly, around eight million adults have said they would struggle on a day to day basis without cash access.
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A huge 1.4 million people do not have a bank account and rely on cash to survive.
Meanwhile, 55 percent of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) do not accept cards, relying entirely on cash payments.
It means they need somewhere convenient and secure to deposit their takings.
Despite this, access to cash is rapidly declining, amid widespread closures of bank branches across the UK.
In response, the CACP scheme has been established to trial and test scalable solutions to help keep cash sustainable across the UK, and to support those that depend on cash to live.
The Post Office said its 11,500 branches across the UK already provide critical cash deposit and withdrawal services for millions of personal and business customers each week.
Figures show 99 percent of the population live within three miles of a Post Office.
The Banking Framework is an agreement between Post Office and 30 UK banks, building societies and credit unions, that ensures millions of customers have national, free access to cash and vital banking services over the counter from their local Post Office.
More than £2billion of cash is withdrawn and deposited per month on average at Post Office branches.
Furthermore, annual volumes of cash withdrawals via Post Office counters have grown by 46 percent to £7.8billion since the start of the Banking Framework in 2017.
In the same period, cash deposits have increased by 110 percent to £22.1billion.
While the CACP scheme offers much promise, the Post Office says there must still be a continued obligation on retail banks to provide access to cash withdrawal services free at the point of service for both consumers and businesses across the country.
Nick Read, CEO at Post Office, said: “We are proud to be at the heart of the CACP programme and see the BankHubs as an exciting expansion of our role in safeguarding a secure and sustainable future for cash, as well as our partnership with the banks.
“Access to vital banking and cash services are imperative in ensuring financial inclusion, and the positive reaction to the pilots so far is testament to just how pressing it is that we support communities and consumers that would struggle without cash.
“The Hubs can make a real difference as part of the solution to meeting peoples’ cash needs in future.”
Martin Kearsley, Banking Director at Post Office, said: “In many communities, Post Office is the last counter in town for cash services, but for many people who still need a place to meet their bank, our new BankHubs are a lifeline.
“The Post Office network has long formed the bedrock of cash access in the UK and we’re fully committed to continuing and expanding that role.
“We see it as essential that any community struggling amid bank branch closures, and those whose livelihoods depend on cash, be provided with an appropriate solution, and hope that in partnership with the banks, the Hubs will prove to be a great success.”
The trial stage of the pilot schemes will run until the end of September this year.
The results of the pilot will then be used to inform regulators and industry alike, with the intention that cash can remain a viable mode of payment for consumers across the UK, and so that small businesses are able to continue to accept and bank cash.