I popped by HSBC in Sutton today for a meeting with the regional director and local area manager to discuss bank closures.
Last year, HSBC closed their branch in Worcester Park. This had only a limited impact as the post office was nearby and customers could also go to Cheam. However, just weeks after Lloyds Bank closed their doors in Cheam Village, HSBC have also decided to close their Cheam Village branch, leaving Santander as the last bank in town.
HSBC explained to me that they have done an assessment and there are only a handful of customers who solely use the Cheam Village branch for all banking needs, i.e. do not use other branches or bank online. They said this was a difficult decision to make as they had been in Cheam since the 1930s, but they have been determined to make contact with all of the customers who only use the Cheam branch to give them one-to-one help in transitioning to the new arrangements by having an extra member of staff there one day a week. They also reassured me that there would be no staff cuts in Cheam, who will be relocated elsewhere.
As with other banks I’ve met, we discussed how banking was changing, and how they personally have adapted their branches, getting their staff out behind the counter and to the front of house with tablets to better assist customers. They also used the opportunity to inform me of the work they do in the local community, including the three-year deal they’ve embarked on with Alzheimer’s UK and Dementia Friends. In addition, they spoke of their apprenticeship programme and how they are one of the largest apprenticeship providers in the UK.
I relayed residents’ concerns about the closure, not least of which that there will only be one bank left in Cheam following the closure. As with other bank closures, I raised the particular issue of elderly, disabled and business customers, who will be the most affected by the changes. The post office on Upper Mulgrave Road can be used for most banking needs, but it is still quite a distance for elderly and disabled customers to get to from the Village, and Sutton is even further. Parking is difficult around Sutton Town Centre and small businesses who need to make more regular cash deposits are going to find it difficult to transport large amounts of cash down the High Street securely.
Cheam Councillor, Holly Ramsey, is putting petitions in shops around Cheam Village calling on HSBC to stay open in Cheam and you can sign online here. I will send this to the Chief Executive before the closure date.