Banks need to re­flect and re­spect their com­mu­ni­ties

Bangor Mail - - Cardiff Beat - with Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Ior­w­erth

ICAN now pay cheques into my bank ac­count via my tele­phone! It’s amaz­ing what new tech­nol­ogy makes pos­si­ble!

It’s very con­ve­nient, but this is ex­actly the kind of rea­son why fewer of us go into our banks nowa­days, and the rea­son banks then give for clos­ing their branches.

A quick tot­ting up by jour­nal­ists this week showed that 11 banks or build­ing so­ci­ety branches had closed here on An­gle­sey in the past three years alone.

It’s had a ma­jor im­pact on our town cen­tres, and on ac­ces­si­bil­ity to face-to-face financial ser­vices and ad­vice.

Nearly all of us take ad­van­tage of these tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments to vary­ing de­grees, but I refuse to ac­cept that this is a good enough rea­son for the banks to aban­don the com­mu­ni­ties that con­trib­ute to­wards their profit-mak­ing.

I’d sup­port reg­u­lat­ing if nec­es­sary, to en­sure that a cer­tain level of ac­cess to ser­vices is main­tained.

Yes, Post Of­fices can pro­vide many ser­vices, but I’d also back the de­vel­op­ment of other financial hubs where peo­ple can have ac­cess to the wider ar­ray of ser­vices on a face-to-face ba­sis.

Even more ex­cit­ing would be the de­vel­op­ment of an indigenous Welsh sys­tem, per­haps al­lied to, or grow­ing from, Banc – the De­vel­op­ment Bank of Wales, as a ‘proper’ pub­lic bank, that could try to en­sure a pres­ence in all parts of Wales.

Another el­e­ment being lost through the clo­sure of branches is the abil­ity to bank in Welsh.

We’re being en­cour­aged to do our bank­ing on­line, but that’s cur­rently in Eng­lish only.

In my branch, I al­most al­ways deal with staff in Welsh.

I’ve met a num­ber of the main banks and tried to put pres­sure on them to de­velop their on­line bank­ing ser­vices bilin­gually.

It can’t be very dif­fi­cult! I re­mem­ber as a young cam­paigner 25 years ago meet­ing the heads of Bar­clays in Wales ask­ing them to make their cash­points bilin­gual.

It was pointed out that this would be quite a chal­lenge, if not im­pos­si­ble. Of course it wasn’t, and in a few years they were all bilin­gual.

I look for­ward to bank­ing on­line in Welsh very soon.

It’s about banks re­flect­ing and re­spect­ing the com­mu­ni­ties from which they make their money.

But they have to keep a phys­i­cal pres­ence here too, per­haps not the kind of pres­ence that saw ev­ery bank hav­ing a branch on ev­ery high street, be­cause those days are gone, but enough to en­sure that the most vul­ner­a­ble and those who most need face-to-face contact to help them stay on top of their financial af­fairs, are able to get it.

● Nearly all of us use tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments but banks should not aban­don com­mu­ni­ties

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