Two in five NI residents are prepared to have a digital-only bank amidst growing branch closures

With over 300 UK branch closures in total already confirmed by Santander, Lloyds, Halifax, HSBC, NatWest, and Barclays in 2021, new research from NerdWallet has found that two in five (43%) people living in Northern Ireland are prepared to have a digital-only bank as their one and only provider.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 1:00 pm

And following AIB’s recent announcement that it will close eight of its 15 Northern Ireland branches in November, an additional 36% said they would want both a digital and conventional bank with branches.

Across the UK, 60% of people would consider a bank with no physical branches, suggesting we might be at a tipping point when it comes to the way in which banks operate and how individuals access and interact with financial services.

The research found that just one in 10 (14%) respondents from Northern Ireland were influenced to select a bank because of convenient access to a branch, whereas over a third (36%) claimed they selected a bank based on convenient access online and the same again (36%) were influenced by the convenience offered through the bank’s app.

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NerdWallet online banking report

Denise Ko Genovese, a Senior Personal Finance Expert at NerdWallet, explained: “The shift to digital banking is very apparent and this trend is undeniably a contributing factor in bank branch closures. There is also an expectation as everything becomes more digital, for banks and other service providers to evolve to meet the modern needs of the public as well: 24 hour and remote access, immediate transactions, and ongoing budget tracking are just a few benefits online banking provides. But we are in a time of transition and there is clearly still a role for physical branches on the banking landscape.”

Of those who said they would want both a digital and conventional bank, a fifth (20%) of Northern Irish residents said they liked the security of a traditional bank, two fifths (40%) said they were still not completely confident in new online-only options, and all (100%) said they still needed the services of a physical bank, including for cash transactions.

Looking ahead, when asked about concerns if all banks were only online in five years’ time, 43% had concerns about some people, like their parents, not having access to banking services, and half (50%) were concerned about the death of the high street.

The research from the independent price comparison site seems to support the current trend for the ‘digitisation’ of high street services, at a time when many are considering how they might re-integrate once Covid-19 related restrictions are lifted.

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