This week, I met with the HSBC local Director, Joanne Watcyn-Jones to day to raise concerns about the proposed closure of the Rhyd-y-penau branch.
HSBC say that over the past five years, the rate of decline in the use of the Rhyd-y-penau branch has accelerated. Even after the covid pandemic they say that there is no sign of recovery with the branch serving fewer than 250 customers a week.
I was also told that the decision to close the branch is final, there will be no review of that decision and the bank’s priority now is to “help vulnerable customers” adapt to banking by telephone and to use internet banking, and to use the nearest alternative HSBC branch at Albany Road, Roath.
As well as raising specific concerns of residents, I made the point that HSBC is a very profitable business, it has significantly increased its profit in the past year and also did very well (along with other banks) out of the UK Government’s Autumn Statement in contrast to the majority of people across the country.
On the bank’s own figures about the Rhyd-y-penau branch supplied to me, 32% of its customers rely solely on branch banking and do not use other banking methods such as telephone or internet banking.
Despite this, HSBC consider that the alternatives available to their customers are sufficient and referred to customers being able to do everything they could do in the branch at a local Post Office. I made the point that there is no Post Office in the Cyncoed and the loss of both the Post Office and now the HSBC branch has a significant and detrimental impact, particularly on older residents and their ability to access their finances conveniently and safely. I made very clear my disappointment both in the decision made about closure and the refusal to even consider reviewing the decision.
The branch will close on 23rd August. I reiterated that some customers will need bespoke assistance to continue their banking and I was assured that any customer who needs it will be given a personal appointment to discuss their situation and help and support will be provided. This may include provision of a digital device and training in how to use internet banking if needed. HSBC will also be hosting “pop-up” advice sessions after the branch closes, for customers to drop in with any specific queries or requests for help. I was told that these are likely to take place across the road in the library but I will provide further information once I receive it.
I am very disappointed both in the decision and the manner in which HSBC reached it. I do not believe that they have taken local customers’ needs into consideration. They are a private business and so they unfortunately can proceed in the way they have decided.
HSBC told me they will be writing to regular users of the Rhyd-y-penau branch on 23 January 2023 to provide more information about the closure, and the alternative services available.