Customers of Caerleon’s HSBC branch are angry following the announcement that the bank will close its branch in Backhall Street on the 2nd November 2012. HSBC stated that the branch is currently only open for limited hours during the week and HSBC is deciding whether or not to leave a cash machine on the site after the banks closure.
The South Wales Argus noted that a campaign to save Caerleon’s only bank from closure is mounting as hundreds of people sign a petition against the move on Friday (20th July), which has filled 14 pages’ worth of signatures. HSBC has already closed the next nearest branch to Caerleon, on Caerleon Road, St Julian’s, in June 2011.
As of March 2012, some twenty One communities in Wales had no bank, and forty seven have only got one bank, says the Campaign for Community Banking Services. The problem of closing banks affects all parts of Wales, while it is more readily identifiable in rural communities; it also affects our urban areas as well.
HSBC is closing its branches across Wales - Presteigne, which was closed on Friday 9th March 2012 (despite over 500 people signed a petition against the closure of the Presteigne branch), and in Blaenafon (where over a 1,000 people signed a petition against the planned closure of the last bank in the town), Torfaen, closed on the 11th May. HSBC says that both banks have seen a significant decline in the numbers of customers using their services and are no longer commercially viable.
Campaigners rightly claim that businesses in the area will suffer and that residents (especially the elderly) who are reliant on public transport to bank in a nearby town will be disadvantaged. Just for the record HSBC (March 12th 2012) had closed six branches in Wales between last September and December 2011, including Llandysul, Ceredigion, and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in Powys. The company has closed 17 "under-used" banks in Wales since 2009 in urban and rural areas.
Both HSBC, Barclays and the rest have been quietly closing small rural banks in recent months, and NatWest plans to cut opening hours. The British Bankers' Association says more customers now go on-line and banks must examine branch running costs.
Despite the spin this is about nothing more than cutting running costs, the banks have little (or no concern) for their customers or the concerns of the customers or their communities. As noted by the US Senate, some banks have other more pressing interests than those of their domestic customers like helping to launder money for drug dealers, dictators and terrorists, so much for being a local bank.