Is combined branches the solution to Norfolk's high street banking problem?

Anne Boden, founder of Starling Bank, on bank closures in Norfolk

Anne Boden, founder of Starling Bank, on bank closures in Norfolk - Credit: Archant/Starling Bank

A disruptor in the banking sector has said that instead of closing branches, traditional banks should look to combine their networks.

The founder of Starling Bank, an entirely online, digitally-focussed start-up launched in 2014, has said the likes of Barclays and Lloyds will continue to hemorrhage funds if they do not think smart about their bricks-and-mortar sites. 

Anne Boden, who worked for some of the globe's leading banks before launching her FinTech venture, said that offerings across the historic brands should be combined for ease of access for customers. 

By the end of 2021 the East of England will have lost 264 banks in just six years - many of which were the last in their towns. 

Ms Boden said: "The pandemic has sped up the uptake of online banking by about ten years because people haven't been able to go in. Branches and their overhead costs have always been a concern to the industry and it's one which isn't going to go away. 

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"I think the best way of them managing it would be to combine networks instead of closing more branches as individual companies."

But, she added, when it comes to Norfolk's rural and potentially older communities, Starling's aim is to provide real, human interactions for vulnerable customers. 

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She said: "Banking has changed - no longer are all the hubs in London. I grew up in Swansea and I'm determined that banking - be it jobs, accessibility for accounts, growth - should be a regional offering serving everyone, not just people in London. 

"I frequently have emails coming in from customers directly - I listen in on the calls that our customer service team carry out and the one thing which always hits home is empathy. 

"We truly care about our customers and I think that's what drives the business. We have people in their 90s banking with us and to be honest at the moment they're getting a better deal than people with traditional banks because we've always been set up to deal with customer enquiries remotely.

"There are always going to be people who need to carry out actions in person which is why our model includes banking services which can be carried out at the Post Office. 

"For people concerned about banking securely on your phone I guess I'd say that it's probably more secure than carrying around wads of cash. Your phones have security protection in there and it's more often than not kept on your person." 

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