Financial inclusion and access to banking services

Ensuring financial inclusion and access to banking services is at the heart of UK Finance's work. 

Whilst the transition to digital banking will continue to be driven by customer demand, the banking and finance sector is committed to making sure that transition does not leave people financially excluded.
Maintaining core banking services

Bank branches have been in the front line throughout the pandemic. Around 90 per cent of bank branches stayed open during lockdown(s) over the last year, albeit with reductions in opening hours - and those branches that closed were typically in shopping malls or university campuses which were locked down. 
All the high street banks have arranged for everyday banking services to be available through 11,500 Post Offices across the country and have done for several years. This more than doubles the number of banking counters that customers can use.  
The sector's ability to innovate at pace was demonstrated in the first weeks of the first national lockdown last year, when new solutions were developed and delivered in less than three weeks to enable individuals that were shielding and not digitally enabled to access the cash they needed to pay for their groceries. Over £7 million has been delivered direct to vulnerable individuals? doorsteps and 10,000 carer-cards have been issued.

Access to basic bank accounts

The banking sector has successfully reduced the number of adults believed to be ?unbanked? from 1.71 million in 2014 to 1.2 million in February 2020 (source: Financial Conduct Authority 'Financial Lives' Survey).Our members currently provide basic bank accounts to 7.4 million consumers who would otherwise struggle to access core banking services.

Recognising the positive social impacts of being able to access the financial system, the banking sector has developed a number of specialist programmes to support marginalised groups - such as prisoners, the homeless, refugees and victims of modern slavery and human trafficking - to open basic bank accounts. 
For released prisoners, the availability of a basic bank account can help to enable individuals to access accommodation, benefits and employment, That in turn helps to reduce reoffending rates. The banking sector is supportive of the Offender Banking Programme, in which 82.78 per cent of all processable applications were approved in H1 2019 and those that were declined were often due to the nature of the applicant's conviction.

Access to Cash 
A key part of the current access to banking agenda is access to cash. UK Finance and the largest retail banking institutions have made five commitments to continue to preserve access to cash for consumers and businesses over the long term. 
We have committed to:

  • ensuring that cash will be available for those who need it, particularly small businesses, the elderly and vulnerable
  • supporting the Community Access to Cash Pilots
  • working together to consider possible models for future access to cash which addresses changing access requirements and meets the needs of customers and communities
  • protecting current critical infrastructure until a viable alternative is available
  • establishing and maintaining a framework to enable early identification of potential cash "cold spots".

UK Finance is establishing an Access to Cash Action Group which will set out the practical details of how access to cash will be protected in the long term. This group will be chaired by Natalie Ceeney CBE, Chair of the Community Access to Cash Pilots Board, with David Postings, Chief Executive acting as deputy chair and will include seniors from firms with the largest networks, LINK, Post Office and consumer group representatives 
Enabling Access for the most vulnerable

Firms are committed to providing access to individuals that have additional needs due to their personal circumstances. Hearing loops, step free access, beacon technology, talking ATMs, BSL interpretation services, accessible apps and websites are just some of the ways in which financial services firms can provide extra help to make everyday banking more accessible for everyone. We would encourage all customers to speak to their provider about their needs so that the right support mechanisms can be put in place.
?Access? has a particular bearing on - and resonance with - banking and financial services. Our aim is to widen access in as many ways to as many customers as possible and in that way help society with managing their money. This has to be a customer experience that we should all get behind.  

Peter will be speaking on the Access to Financial Services panel at today's UK Finance Customer Experience Summit alongside Ruth Anderson, Head of Lending, Starling Bank, Nici Audhlam-Gardiner, Chief Commercial Officer, OneFamily and Ross Borkett, Head of Banking, Post Office Ltd.

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