How long ago did you visit your bank?
Once upon a time…
Not good; let me try this one again.
About two decades ago, when John and I decided to move in together (and see what happens next) we didn’t go to a furniture shop or to celebrate in a nice restaurant (we left this one for later). We went to see John’s bank manager. I remember sitting in his office and chatting about the future, about our plans and how this all will impact our finances.
In contrast, when four years ago we needed to borrow £80,000 to consolidate the lion part of our debt – yep, the one we paid off in three years – we didn’t go to our bank manager’s office and didn’t have a civilised chat discussing ‘assets’ and ‘liabilities’ either. It was all arranged via the internet and telephone calls.
Having said that, recently a friend was telling me that she has big trouble with her bank in France. She lives permanently in the UK but spent a year living in Paris and now goes there very often; so having a bank account with a French Bank is really useful. However, the time came for her to have a new bank card and this is when trouble began – the French bank insisted that they can’t send the new card to Manchester and my friend should go to a particular branch in Paris to collect and sign for it. No need to say that this all suddenly was more bother than it’s worth.
Next thing I knew, I am living a very similar scenario in Sofia. Now that it is certain that the sale of the apartment is going through I need to make provisions for access to the money. Couple of years back, I opened two bank accounts in Tokuda Bank in Sofia; and even had to sign a document that I am not a Prime-Minister of a country (don’t ask, it is still a mystery). Why two?
Because I wanted to have internet access and accounts with internet access in Bulgaria can’t have cards attached to them. So we have been operating a bit of a ‘dam system’ here as well: the money from the sale will go in the account with (potentially) internet access and the one with a card attached is for everyday spending when we are in Bulgaria.
Except that two years ago, it didn’t matter how hard I tried I could not get internet access; it was not that important back then either. Now it is! We should be able to transfer the money from the Bulgarian account to the UK.
Hence, I am on a mission again: this time to arrange my bank account internet access. So far, so good but…to be able to apply for the code that will allow me, I was assured, to connect I had to go to the bank branch and fill in six different documents; and sign them. When we are back in Sofia, I’ll have to go to the branch and collect the code. The ladies who work there are rapidly becoming close personal friends.
Now you know why, when I came across the results from a study supported by ThinkMoney* my interest was immediately exited. Over 2,000 UK residents were asked how long ago they visited their bank and the results are really interesting: it turns out that many of us in the UK don’t grace our bank with a visit for months; in fact many months. For instance, roughly:
- 7 million people haven’t been in a bank branch for 6 months or longer
- 11 million haven’t been in a bank branch for 3 months or longer
Even more interesting I find the finding that whether or not people visit their bank branch is not age or gender dependent. I would have expected that younger people are more inclined to do everything on their computers and that men are more likely to do it than women. My expectations have been proven wrong: the single biggest difference is according to location with people in large cities more likely to visit a bank branch.
People living in London are far more likely to visit their bank branch regularly than people living elsewhere in the UK.
Without wishing to bring politics in this discussion, I can’t but wonder which came first: the latest wave of bank branches closures or the spread of remote banking? Or for that matter, whether all these people who have not visited their bank branch are visiting virtually or ignoring their finances?
Whatever the reasons, the fact stands: the results from this study are telling us that the end of banking as we knew it – including regular visits to our bank and friendly chats with our bank manager – is near: according to the findings, online access is the single most important factor when choosing current account for four out of five people.
In fact, it may be that we ought to be thinking about the transformation of the service economy generally. How long has it been since you went to a bookshop last and touched, smelled and half read the books there?
Finally, I would like to ask my readers three questions:
- Q1: How long ago did you visit your bank’s branch?
- Q2: Why?
- Q3: Where do you live?
Here are my answers:
- Q1: In the UK, I don’t remember but it may be well over three months ago; in Bulgaria I go there every couple of hours.
- Q2: Needed to put in a cheque – rarity, I know, but it was exceptional circumstances.
- Q3: I live in Manchester, UK and the branch is seven minutes slow walk from my house.
Looking forward to reading some interesting answers.
* ThinkMoney provides an alternative to a High Street bank account that makes it easier to budget. The account ring-fences money needed for regular commitments, like bills and savings. It also comes with a ‘Money Manager’ service to help customers to manage their accounts.
Author: Maria Nedeva