Age UK calls for improvements to new Financial Services and Markets Bill to protect older customers as research shows the importance of face-to-face banking
Three-quarters (75 per cent) of older people aged 65+ and over in Britain who confirmed they have a main bank account (estimated to be 7.86 million) specifically want to undertake in person at least one of 10 banking tasks at a branch of a bank, building society or Post Office.
The research, published as the Financial Services and Markets Bill makes its way through Parliament, supports the Charity’s call for essential banking services to be protected in the upcoming legislation to ensure their continued provision.
Among those participants who confirmed they had a bank or building society account, support for in-branch activities remains high among those aged 65+. In addition to making a deposit with cash or a cheque or withdrawing cash – the two activities people want to undertake in person at a-branch (50 per cent and 38 per cent respectively) – other activities that these people only want to carry out in-branch include starting bereavement procedures (29 per cent), opening a new or additional accounts (28 per cent) or amending or cancelling direct debits or standing orders (25 per cent). More than one in five also want to undertake tasks like authorising third party access (21 per cent) or applying for a loan (23 per cent).
Age UK is calling for these types of banking activities – all services currently offered in-branch – to be protected by the new Bill to ensure banking services that meets the needs of older customers. With swathes of local branches closing or adopting reduced hours in recent years, many older people feel they have been cut adrift and left struggling to access basic banking services.
Although one half of older participants do use online banking, the Charity believes that there are still significant numbers of older people who are digitally excluded or unable to manage their finances online because of health issues or a lack of knowledge or confidence. Others are unable to meet the costs of having a broadband connection and buying the hardware – likely to be an increasing problem as the cost of living crisis deepens.
The Charity’s new findings show that a higher proportion of those in the older groups who have a bank account feel, or would feel, uncomfortable with using online banking than younger groups, with almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of those aged 75+ feeling uncomfortable with it compared to a fifth (21 per cent) of those aged 65-74. Face-to-face banking, using counter services (in a bank branch, building society, Post Office, or other physical location), is still the main way in which a quarter (23 per cent) of those aged -65 and over who have a bank account manage their account. Rising from one in five (20 per cent) of those aged between 65-74 to over a third (34 per cent) of those aged -75 and over.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “We’re very pleased that the Government is legislating to protect accessing and depositing cash, and it’s good news that customers and businesses can continue using this payment method for the foreseeable future. This is particularly important for the millions of older people who rely heavily on cash.
“However there is room for improvement. We believe the rapid move towards online banking over the past few years has caused huge problems for many older customers, who whether for health or personal reasons are not able to move online. These difficulties are exacerbated when branch closures coincide with poor public transport, a lack of ATMs, and inadequate internet service and mobile reception. We urge the Government to amend the Bill to include the protection of a wider range of essential in-branch services which will make it easier for millions of older customers to manage their finances in the years to come.
“The bank-led initiative to create shared hubs and other new provision is very welcome, and we believe this complements the Government’s efforts to improve protection of banking services. Including other services that are important to branch-dependent older people isn’t a huge stretch and should all be fairly easy to deliver within the new Shared Hubs. At Age UK, we believe that older people in communities with dwindling branch numbers across the country would be delighted to know that they can continue to meet their banking needs for years to come.”
With high inflation continuing to squeeze people’s incomes, cash remains integral to the lives of many older people, with over one in five over 65s – 2.4 million people – relying on cash. Older people can depend on cash to pay for cleaners and gardeners for example, or to give to a trusted third party to do their shopping. That’s why Age UK is also calling for the Financial Services and Markets Bill to include a commitment that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will work to ensure that customers who cannot get to branches under any circumstances are able to access cash and make deposits too. This will be incredibly important for the many older people who are unable to leave the house for health or other reasons.