Banks, building societies and credit unions – branch access for essential services update

Banks, building societies and credit unions have made significant efforts to maintain essential services for their customers during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. As restrictions start to ease, firms will begin to re-open branches and increase the range of services available.  

The UK government has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible when people return to work. This is an update to our previous statement of 25 March 2020, and sets out our expectations of firms as they reinstate services in line with this guidance, and gives advice for consumers who may need access to bank branch services.

We do not expect banking services to fully return to normal immediately, and there may be further adjustments required depending on the public health situation. Firms need to follow the relevant guidance from the government and the devolved administrations.

This will mean continuing to balance the needs of their customers with the safety and welfare of their staff. Firms should continue to consider the needs of their most vulnerable customers who may struggle to access essential services, particularly if they are self-isolating.

Essential services for these customers may include access to cash, telephone banking and the ability to make in-person payments through third parties.

Priorities for firms

Firms continue to handle large numbers of coronavirus-related enquiries from customers, for example, repayment holidays and applications for business interruption loans. Alongside this, they are protecting their staff by implementing social distancing measures and testing key workers for coronavirus.

We have been working closely with firms to help them move towards reinstating services for customers in a consistent way. Our expectation is that they will prioritise several areas, including:

  • Continuing to ensure essential services are available for the most vulnerable customers and expand capacity where possible. As part of this, firms will proactively contact these customers to make sure they know about the services they offer for those self-isolating, and how they can contact their bank if they do not have access to online banking. 
  • Where possible, and in line with relevant government guidelines, reinstating access to cash and essential services in local areas which have lost access to bank branches or cash during the crisis.
  • Where it is not possible to reinstate access, and in areas where a reduced service remains, ensuring that there is clear communication to customers through websites and physical signs at branches to signpost to alternatives, such as Post Office services.

We are working closely with firms and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure they are taking consistent approaches and communicating clearly with their customers.

Advice for consumers

Consumers should continue to use alternatives to branches where possible, for example, online banking. However, we know there will be consumers (including vulnerable consumers) who need to access bank branch services, such as accessing cash or making in-person payments. Consumers should contact their banking provider if they need to access services in this way. Our expectation is that firms will provide them with further information and help on the options available to them.