Could this shared banking hub be the savior of our High Streets?
A long queue formed outside the Cambuslang Bank Hub, winding down the main street. Despite its length, there are more smiles among those in line than frowns.
Proof, to my unscientific mind at least, that shared branches, a new form of banking being experimented with in the city, could re-energize communities from top to bottom of the country – salvation for those who had run out of money. bank. I am in Cambuslang on a beautiful, hot early summer day to visit the “pilot” shared branch. Six miles south-east of Glasgow in South Lanarkshire, this city of 30,000 offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future.
And if the government delivers on its recent pledge to support vulnerable communities with a £ 4.8billion ‘leveling fund’ to regenerate city centers, you might find one of these new hubs opening up. in your city next year.
Lifeline: Cambuslang’s shared hub targets clients of major banks
This new world of banking is welcomed by those who patiently wait in the Cambuslang queue, as locals fully understand the impact on a community of bank and ATM closings – currently hundreds a month.
Retired NHS cleaner Elaine Redford is here to withdraw cash as she prefers to use banknotes and coins to help with household budgeting, rather than relying on debit cards or debit cards credit.
The 72-year-old said: “This hub is the best thing that has happened to Cambuslang in years. It provides a financial lifeline for a community struggling to survive.
Cambuslang was once an industrial powerhouse. It has a proud history in coal mining and steelmaking, and until recently it has been instrumental in keeping British homes clean – with vacuum cleaners made in a Hoover factory. But unfortunately, the company that once employed 5,600 people closed its doors 16 years ago. The last mines in the area closed decades earlier. It is a community struggling to survive.
And, as is often the case, at the most difficult times, all the shores desert the city. The first to resign was the Royal Bank of Scotland five years ago. He was followed a year later by Clydesdale. Finally, the last bank in the city – a branch of the BST – closed for the last time in 2018. Not only were branches closed, but free cash machines were also removed.
Now, the community is placing their hopes for all of their banking needs in this abandoned butcher shop – reopened in April as a shared banking hub.
It is one of two such centers being piloted in Britain as part of a ‘community cash access’ program that runs through September – funded by a £ 60,000 grant. provided by major street banks. The other is in Rochford, Essex. The hub has a post office counter where people can do all of their basic banking, such as depositing or withdrawing money, or cashing a check.
After patiently waiting in the queue and observing a Covid rule of an entrance and exit where only four people are inside at a time, I am happily greeted at the hub counter by the husband team and wife, Jan and Paul Culverwell.
“Ignore the sign,” Paul said, gesturing to a sign with five bank names. “We accept customers from the big banks every day. The sign is just to show which days these banks will be sending staff to the hub – staff that customers can chat with in a separate meeting room.
The sign says that on Monday there is a representative from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is part of the NatWest group, to deal with any questions their clients may have. Tuesday is Santander’s turn. Wednesday sees the arrival of a representative of Virgin Money (Clydesdale as it was). Thursday is the turn of Bank of Scotland, which is part of the Lloyds Banking Group. And Friday is BST day.
As a First Direct customer, he says, I can still use the hub to withdraw or deposit money. I can also get an up-to-date bank balance and if I had a business account I could take direct debit payments. The same goes for Barclays and HSBC customers.
Like Elaine, retired elementary school teacher Fiona Walker is a fan of the new banking hub.
“I just used the branch to deposit a check,” she says, “but it’s also a great place to withdraw or deposit money. Nothing replaces the personal touch – being served by a person, not a computer. ‘ The friendly atmosphere and the open counter at the hub – with the obligatory Covid screen – are welcoming.
The livery, with its almost black tint, is more in keeping with a funeral home than a bank. But that’s a minor criticism. The hub is seen as a revitalizing force and it’s not just the residents who are feeling this. The city’s businesses have also welcomed its opening. Helen Buchanan, esthetician at the Classy Chicks salon a few doors down, said: “We do banking with Royal Bank of Scotland, so we are now using the hub to collect our receipts.
“The joint bank has also increased footfall in the region and as a result we are attracting more customers. A major driving force behind the new center is the Cambuslang Community Council, an independent volunteer action group.
Its chairman, John Bachtler, says: “The hub is very successful. The next step is to get the government and the banks on board. There is no doubt that vulnerable communities get a real boost from a banking presence on the main street. It helps local businesses and provides a service for those who depend on cash and cannot travel long distances to the nearest bank. The government’s leveling fund would be put to good use if it supported shared banking hubs. ‘
Handy: Toby Walne checks his balance inside the shared hub and, on the left, a bustling branch in the ’70s
The Community Cash Access Program is led by Natalie Ceeney, former head of the Financial Ombudsman Service and author of a key report on the need to keep cash on main streets. She said: “Eight million people in Britain depend on cash for their daily needs. Shared banking hubs providing access to cash are vital for communities. ‘
Ceeney also chairs a separate “cash access action group” to which the big street banks have subscribed in an effort to find solutions to the cash access problem. Critics say banks are using the action group as a smokescreen for further branch closures, but Ceeney is hoping profitable ideas such as shared banking centers could offer a practical solution.
She says: “Shared banking hubs will save banks money in the long run, especially if legislation is introduced requiring them to provide national access to cash.”
Last month, John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said consultation on cash legislation would begin this summer – although the proposals would not be announced until the fall. In a campaign to be launched tomorrow, the Post will call on the government to present this legislation to ensure that access to cash becomes a legal right.
The government is committed to ‘upgrading’ UK communities to support economic growth. The £ 4.8 billion ‘leveling fund’ was announced in March.
In addition, a £ 220million ‘UK Community Renewal Fund’ and £ 150million ‘Community Property Fund’ will be put into operation. For more details on these grants and how communities can apply for them, visit gov.uk and type in the names of the funds.
As part of the community cash access program, cash machines have been set up at various locations including a military base in Lulworth, Dorset and a post office in Hay-on-Wye, Powys. New ways of providing cashback are also being tested.
There is no doubt that access to cash on the main street is increasingly threatened by a combination of bank branch closures – currently on average 55 per month – and the removal of free ATMs, including 8,700 have been deleted in the past. three years.
But Cambuslang’s bustling shared banking hub suggests this new form of high street banking may be the way to go. An essential cog in the rebirth of the main street.
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