Banks and building societies will need to assess the impact of changes to their services, for example shorter branch opening times, under updated guidance proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The FCA is also consulting on requirements for more detailed analysis on how firms assess the impact on customers when they plan to close a branch, remove or convert an ATM or reduce the services they provide.
The FCA has warned that some banks and building societies are not currently doing enough to properly understand the impact of these changes and to keep their customers informed. Extending communications to other groups such as local charities and councils to understand the wider impact from changes to services, is also included in the proposals.
The proposed update to the guidance is the latest step the FCA has taken to protect access to banking services, which includes accessing cash at branches. In 2020 initial guidance on branch closures and conversions was published in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the FCA continues to monitor cash access points and engage with firms on closure plans. Most recently the FCA published examples of good practice, and where improvements are needed, for firms considering closures.
The Government recently confirmed that the FCA will be given powers to make sure cash remains accessible.
Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said:
‘We expect firms to continue to offer easy and accessible banking services to their customers, and this is even more important as the country faces a cost-of-living crisis. We saw firms successfully do this and support consumers through the pandemic, and this standard needs to continue with firms really thinking about their customers, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, and ensuring they continue to meet their needs.’