HSBC has drawn the curtains on its Ross-on-Wye branch, a closure that leaves the town with just three remaining banks. The bank’s doors were permanently shut on Tuesday, June 20, marking the end of an era in local banking.

The decision, part of a nationwide strategy that saw 114 HSBC branches closing across the country, follows a significant shift in banking habits. The bank stated that over the past five years, physical branch visitations had plummeted by a striking 65 per cent as customers increasingly turned to online and mobile platforms for their banking needs.

The impact of the pandemic has only served to further propel this digital migration. An unprecedented surge in the use of online and mobile banking during this period saw less than half of the bank’s customers still actively utilising the branch network. Average footfall has declined over 50 per cent since 2017, an acceleration that surpasses any point in the previous decade.

For Ross-on-Wye, this closure follows the exit of Barclays last year, leaving the town’s banking services to be maintained by Santander, Lloyds, and Nationwide. The residents of Ross, particularly HSBC customers, now face the inconvenience of travelling to Hereford or Gloucester to access the nearest branch.

However, this move is not just a step towards phasing out the physical branches, but a part of HSBC UK’s new “branch approach”, a strategy that redefines the bank’s relationship with its customers. HSBC emphasises that they will be providing a broader range of local support, which extends beyond the traditional bank branch format. This includes community pop-ups, self-service machines, colleague-assisted digital support for customers, and use of the Post Office network.

The bank contends that this decision to reshape its network and invest in an alternative package of support and formats aligns with the growing preference for digital banking services. The savings realised from this reduction in branches will be redirected into enhancing HSBC’s digital and mobile servicing, as well as fortifying its branch network in key locations.

Whilst banks such as HSBC will often claim to be supporters of small and medium sized business on the high street, the deluge of closures indicates that their actions do not back up their words. The withdrawal of hundreds of branches on the high street seems to be an indication that the high street is no longer worth the expenditure of their presence.