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HSBC is to close 82 branches in the UK between April and September this year, claiming customers are turning to digital banking. The company will have 511 branches across the country following the closure programme.

Managers said they did not expect to make any redundancies, with staff moved to nearby branches instead. Coronavirus and changing customer habits have altered the way we bank, but there are concerns over closures.

Campaigners say that local branches provide a lifeline for those who need access to cash and face-to-face services, and allow small businesses to bank without too much disruption to their own trade.

HSBC said all but one of the branches earmarked for closure were within one mile of a Post Office, where these day-to-day transactions could be carried out. It said – even stripping out the effects of the pandemic – the number of customers using branches had fallen by a third in the past five years, and 90% of all customer contact was over the phone, internet or smartphone, in addition to contacts on social media.

Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s head of network, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for the changes that we are making.

“It hasn’t pushed us in a different direction but reinforces the things that we were focusing on before and has crystallised our thinking. This is a strategic direction that we need to take to have a branch network fit for the future.”

This would include changing some branches to concentrate on cash access, as well as the use of “pop-up” branches in some areas by the end of the year. It means some remaining branches will offer fewer services.

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