The FCA has today published draft guidance for firms setting out its expectations for banks, building societies and credit unions when they are considering closing branches or ATMs, or converting a free to use ATM to pay to use.
The FCA wants to ensure that firms treat their customers fairly when closing a branch or ATM, including considering what alternatives they can provide their customers. The FCA also expects firms to communicate their plans clearly to customers, and how else they can access banking services if the proposals are implemented.
The guidance sets out the FCA’s expectation that firms should carefully consider the impact of a planned closure or conversion on their customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs, including withdrawals, deposits and other cash-related branch services such as cheque cashing. It also sets out the FCA’s expectation that firms consider providing, and put in place alternative access arrangements where it is reasonable to do so.
- sharing services with other providers
- providing mobile banking hubs or cash delivery services
- commissioning a free-to-use ATM
- supporting customers to use digital channels
The FCA has also made it clear that although closures or conversions are decisions for firms to take, firms should inform the FCA at an early stage of any plans to close or convert branches or ATMs, and continue to engage with the FCA through any process.
Sheldon Mills, Interim Executive Director of Strategy and Competition said:
'Access to cash is a priority for the FCA. While in the recent climate we have seen some consumers move to digital payments, we have also seen the importance of the continued availability of cash to many consumers, including those most vulnerable. We welcome the government's plans to legislate as a longer-term solution, and the work the industry is doing already to maintain cash.
'Firms have managed access well through covid-19, and we have seen many good examples of how they have used alternatives to branches and ATMs during the crisis. We expect them to build on this work and to continue to think about consumer needs as they take decisions on future closures.
'We’ve published this guidance to remind firms of our expectations, which firms need to take account of throughout their decision-making process on the future of their branches or ATMs.'
The FCA will continue to work closely with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) on access to cash, including the closures of ATMs and other cash access services as outlined in our joint statement of 16 June on the approach to access to cash.
This guidance applies to FCA-regulated firms that operate physical sites like bank branches, building society branches, credit union offices or cashpoints.
The consultation closes on Thursday 30 July.
Notes to Editors
1. Consultation Paper - GC20/2: Branch and ATM closures or conversions