A few weeks ago, Mike Fotis wrote of the depressing future of UK banking for those living in rural areas, or who are unable to use technology. Understandably – and for most customers, sensibly – many banks are focused on improving their online services and apps. The problem is that as they do this, bank branches are closing rapidly as they become increasingly redundant. For many of us this is simply an irritant, meaning that you have to travel that bit further if you actually want to visit a branch of your bank. But if you have problems with mobility – or if the next closest bank branch is a fair distance away – this starts to become more problematic.
And for these people – and indeed many others – the news of a shake-up in the country’s ATM services could be another massive blow. Link runs 70,000 cash machines across the country and is the UK’s largest ATM network. And Link is currently considering drastically cutting the number of free-to-use cash machines in the UK, after a row over the fees charged to ATM operators.
The worry is that this move will, yet again, be most problematic for those who depend less on technology and online banking, and more on cold hard cash. The ATM Industry Association have warned that this ‘unwarranted shake-up of Link’ could ‘hit the most hard-up the heaviest – particularly the millions of people who rely on cash for day-to-day budgeting.’ Another interesting point – and again one that would be worrying to rural communities – is that a lack of access to cash in smaller villages will mean that rural businesses will lose customers to shops and businesses in larger towns and cities.
The ATM Industry Association are describing the plans as ‘potentially catastrophic’, asking why Link would want to destroy ‘an ATM network admired around the planet’. It’s a fair question. Yes, online banking and banking technologies are moving on in leaps and bounds. But pretending that everyone in the country wants to use – or indeed is able to use – online banking services and do away with cash risks alienating huge sectors of society.