“We need our banks,” say millions of the UK’s older population

With bank branches continuing to close all around the country, a new Age UK report reveals that four in 10 over 65s with a bank account do not manage their money online, while three in four account-holders aged 65+ want to carry out at least one transaction in a branch.

Age UK is calling on the banks to accelerate the roll-out of Shared Banking Hubs to meet the high and continuing demand for face-to-face banking services, and plug the gaps in a growing number of “banking deserts” across the country.

New Ipsos research for Age UK found a high level of support for in-person banking:

  •  four in 10 older people (39 per cent) with a bank account in Britain – equivalent to 4.09 million people – are not managing their money online and could be at high risk of financial exclusion;
  • three-quarters (75 per cent) of over-65s with a bank account – equivalent to 7.86 million people – want to undertake at least one banking task in person at a bank branch, building society or Post Office;
  • nearly a third of older people with a bank account (31 per cent) – equivalent to 3.25 million people – feel uncomfortable with online banking, despite its growing popularity in recent years.

Published today (3 May), Age UK’s new report ‘You can’t bank on it anymore’ shows that age, gender, income level and social grade are all key factors in determining how comfortable people feel about online banking. 

The research participants who were most likely to feel uncomfortable using online banking were those aged 85+, female, on a low income, or more disadvantaged than their counterparts. And among those who were uncomfortable, not wanting to be defrauded or scammed (31 per cent), a lack of trust in online banking services (28 per cent) and a lack of IT skills (28 per cent) were cited as the main reasons. 

Shared Banking Hubs

On hearing about Shared Banking Hubs, half the participants with a main bank account (49 per cent) – equivalent to 5.14 million people – said they would be comfortable using one as a main place to manage their money in their main account– a surprisingly high proportion, given that most of us are yet to experience one of these new settings. 

With swathes of local branches closing, the report argues that physical spaces – whether a bank or building society branch, Banking Hub, or alternative suitable provision – must continue to exist so people can still carry out face-to-face tasks such as withdrawing and depositing cash, applying for a loan, arranging third party access to their account or starting bereavement proceedings. The disappearance of face-to-face banking risks cutting a significant minority of the older population out of an essential service, making it difficult if not impossible for them to manage their money and maintain their independence.  

Looking to the future

Banking Hub pilots are a relatively new solution to the problem but have so far worked extremely well and are proving popular with the local communities in which they are based. Safeguarding physical banking services in this way is a positive move forward but Age UK is keen for the roll-out to speed up to avoid more communities becoming “banking deserts”, with no face-to-face banking services or even ATMs in place, leaving many older people living there feeling isolated and disenfranchised. 

In addition to the speedy roll-out of more Banking Hubs, Age UK say it is imperative that HM Treasury recognises the importance of protecting physical banking services. With the publication of its “cash access policy statement” imminent, which will set out the Government’s vision of how people will access cash and banking in the future, Age UK urges the Treasury to include provision to ensure continued access to face-to-face services. This would secure a legacy for all the hard work that has gone into developing the Banking Hub model and would send a strong signal that the Government is on consumers’ side.

With around 2.4 million older people reliant on cash, an inability to access cash locally can prevent older people from going out or using the services they rely on, resulting in them feeling frustrated and left behind. Many older people view cash as the most reliable and straightforward way to pay for goods and services, as well as an effective means of managing their weekly budget when money is extremely tight. 

Age UK is also calling for the banks to do more to encourage and support older people to gain digital skills and benefit from online banking, if it’s right for them. Older people who are digitally excluded often need ongoing, personalised support, to gain digital skills. Once confident with some online activities, such as emailing and browsing, they may need further support to extend their skills including being able to safely bank online.  

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