Increasingly, the impact of the pace of change in the banking sector on local communities, businesses and staff has been raised with the Finance Minister. Whilst the trend has been moving towards greater use of online banking facilities and where these services have benefited the many customers who use them; concerns have been highlighted regarding the closure of branches and the wider societal impacts this has especially on rural areas; the vulnerable; and elderly; and where this had been accelerated somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic
The Finance Minister therefore hosted a roundtable discussion on 16th February 2022 on ‘the future of banking in the North’, with a range of stakeholders attending, including representatives from: the Banking and financial services industry; Trade Unions; Business bodies; and Consumer and community organisations.
The event took the form of a structured discussion chaired by the Finance Minister. This provided the opportunity to bring the full range of stakeholders together collectively to discuss a range of issues in relation to local banking and financial services with the Minister:
- For stakeholders to highlight key issues currently facing the local banking sector, its staff and customers;
- To gain an understanding from stakeholders of the contribution made by the different sectors in the provision of financial services and to identify where any gaps or weaknesses exist;
- to identify and understand the main issues that will influence and shape the sector and how services might be provided going forward; and
- To invite and discuss suggested actions from stakeholders that might improve the provision and availability of financial services locally.
In advance of the event, DoF also sought written submissions from invited stakeholders in response to a series of strategic questions around the future of local banking and access to services.
Following the roundtable discussion and the written evidence provided, DoF officials summarised the key issues highlighted by stakeholders, which are included in this report found here.
The issues set out in the report have been formally presented to the Treasury and regulatory authorities in London for consideration given their legislative authority in relation to banking.