Branch closures present banks with age-friendly design challenge

13 May 2016 By David Steele, Policy Manager, Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most out of life. Matters to do with money management and banking are a central part of day-to-day living and well-being for people in older age.  However, older people are regularly facing challenges to getting on with their day-to-day banking needs.  With the rapid growth of  the population aged 80+, having banking and fintech services that are designed around the needs of older age consumers and their carers is crucial to ensuring older people’s well-being. David Steele, Financial Services Policy Manager at Age UK explores age-friendly banking: what it is and how to do it.

What happens when all the banks in a town or suburb decide to close their branches? Where do people go to talk about tricky transactions or more complex services? Where do local businesses bank their cash and cheques? The UK bank branch network has shrunk by half over the last 25 years with another 2000 closures expected in the next 3-4 years, meaning that the number of stranded customers is likely to continue increasing.

Age UK has just published a report: Age-friendly banking – what it is and how to do it, which tackles the service design challenge facing the banking industry by looking at a series of case studies of age-friendly banking. These range from how to run user-friendly call centres, to mobile branches, to aids for disabled customers, to intercepting scams and fraud.

Many older people are on-line and comfortable with Internet and mobile banking, but many are not – particularly those aged 75+, of whom over 60% are not on-line. Some older people are happy using the Internet for video-calling their grandchildren or finding information, but do not like Internet banking for security reasons.

The banking industry is relying on the Post Office network to pick up from where it is leaving off, but Post Offices are highly variable around the country. In smaller centres, they may be no more than part of a newsagent or grocery store. Considerable investment will be needed to bring the Post Office network up to a level that can substitute for closing bank branches.

Another option would be neutral branches: building on the ATM concept, a single place in a small town that could provide banking services for customers from all banks. Using new technology, such as video links to customer service personnel, an experience close to face-to-face banking could be achieved by this means.

The key is inclusive design: the design process should begin with the customer and work back to the technology, not the other way round. If the industry can develop solutions that work for customers who are off-line and coping with disability and lack of mobility, it will have found solutions that work brilliantly for everyone else.

You download the report here.