Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS face £19.5bn in fines, compensation and legal expenses
HSBC was revealed to have shut the most number of branches since January 2015, followed by RBS and Lloyds Reuters

High street banks have shut 1,046 branches across the UK over the past two years, a study by UK consumer group Which? has revealed on Wednesday (14 December). HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds, Barclays, The Co-operative Bank, Santander and TSB are the banks that closed down their branches.

HSBC shut down the most number of branches — 321 — from January 2015 until the present, the report revealed. This marked about 27% of its total branch network in the country.

RBS had the second highest closures with 191 branches, while Lloyds stood third with 180 closures in the period. The Which? study revealed that The Co-operative Bank had closed 117 branches, which marked more than half of its network.

UK banks cited the growth of online banking as the reason behind these closures. HSBC informed Which? that the number of customers visiting their branches had reduced by 40% on average over the last five years amid this shift to online banking.

However, the UK consumer group pointed out that only 56% of adults had used online banking in 2015 and there were about 20 million adults who don't use it. These, included both people who weren't online and those who had a poor broadband connection.

Which? said another reason for the bank closures were that post offices were now providing many of the banking services, which had reduced the need for customers to visit their bank branches.

A survey conducted by the consumer group revealed that 72% of the respondents marked their experience at the post office as good or excellent. However, 41% of them said they were unaware of the banking services on offer at post offices.

Most bank branch closures per 100,000 people were found to be in Wales, South West England and Scotland, regions with extensive rural areas. Areas that saw the highest number of bank branch closures were those with poor broadband speed.

Hence, the consumer group said these high street banks should consult with local communities, before closing branches in those respective regions.

Commenting on the same, Peter Vicary-Smith, CEO at Which? said in a statement, "Access to the services necessary to make everyday banking possible should be simple and straightforward. We've seen some good examples of banks acting responsibly and in the interest of local communities when they close branches. However, banks can and must do a better job of working with their customers to understand their needs and those of the local community, especially when they are making changes to the services they offer or closing branches."