British banks urged by charity to create ‘age-friendly’ branches for older people

Nearly 10,000 banks and building societies in the UK have been closed over the past 25 years, leaving hundreds of thousands of older people without access to banking services, according to a report by Age UK.

The charity said in its report that banks in the UK should work harder in responding to the needs of the nation’s ageing society.

Age UK said, “Faced with the decline of traditional banking and the rise of new approaches including online banking, the Charity is calling for more consideration of the needs of older customers and how these can best be met, particularly in rural and semi-rural areas which have been hard-hit by branch closures.”

Elderly Couple
Most older people prefer face-to-face banking as they consider it to be more secure than online banking.

A large number of older people are not online, approximately 4.5 million over-65s in the UK, due to lack of computer or digital skills, concerns about security issues, the cost of getting online.

Although there are some older people who do their banking online, the majority reportedly have a stronger preference for in-branch banking with face-to-face service and the security of seeing bank transactions take place.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “The increasing reliance on online methods is difficult for many and bank branch closures can leave older people feeling high and dry, but we have been heartened to hear about some creative and successful approaches that work well for older people and for banks and building societies too.”

Potential solutions to this problem include telebanking, enhanced use of the Post Office, joint bank branches and mobile branches.

The charity mentioned successful initiatives which have been implemented, such as RBS’s Mobile Branch Banking service, which accept deposits, cash withdrawals, bill payments – all vehicles have on-board customer phone facilities for contacting central areas to enquire about products and services.

An RBS van which offers customers mobile banking.

The RBS mobile banking service covers over 11,000 miles and serves 600 communities every week. Over the past three years RBS has expanded its fleet with 28 new vehicles – which have high visibility markings on steps and handrails and open plan designs. Age UK said that the service has been favourably received by its research participants on the provision that it “remains regular and reliable.”

Banks should listen to older people and put ‘age-friendliness’ at the heart of their propositions

Caroline Abrahams concluded:

“The examples highlighted in our report show that by listening to older people and implementing new approaches intelligently the financial services sector can make real progress towards meeting the needs of an ageing society. That’s why we’re urging every financial service provider to put “age-friendliness” at the heart of their propositions. Not only is this good for older people, it can make great business sense as well.”