HSBC to axe another 62 branches
Banking giant HSBC has announced plans to close 62 branches across the UK this year.
The high street lender said it would be the only cut to its branch network that it would make in 2017, bringing its total number of UK branches to 625.
Francesca McDonagh, HSBC head of retail banking and wealth management for UK and Europe, said: "The decision to close these branches ensures a more sustainable branch network for the future as we continue to invest in our digital platforms and our people."
The swingeing cuts to the branch network could trigger up to 180 job losses, but the bank said it would try and redeploy staff where possible.
HSBC has moved to slash back its branch network after seeing a rise in the number of customers using online banking.
It said 90% of its interactions with customers now came through digital - an 80% rise on last year - while the number of customers using HSBC branches has dropped by nearly 40% in the past five years.
"The way our customers bank with us is changing," Ms McDonagh added.
"More customers are using mobile and internet banking than ever before, innovation such as Touch and Voice ID has proved extremely popular, and fewer people are using branches.
She said the bank would offer customers "individual sessions" to help them bank with HSBC outside of the branch.
"Our priority now is to work with our colleagues, our customers and the communities impacted by today's announcement.
"We are contacting customers to explain the decision and help them with alternative ways to bank with us."
In November, HSBC saw third-quarter pre-tax profits tumble 86% as it stomached a hefty hit from the disposal of its Brazilian business.
The banking giant said reported pre-tax profits hit 843 million US dollars (£678 million) in the three months to the end of September, down from 6.097 billion US dollars (£4.905 billion) over the period in 2015.
Antonio Simoes, chief executive of HSBC Bank, said the branch cuts would draw a line under the bank's branch restructuring programme.
"We now feel we have the right branch network that complements the other ways in which customers now choose to interact with us," he added.
Unite union national officer Dominic Hook said the announcement made it a "dark day" for HSBC staff.
"Unite is deeply concerned that this large branch closure programme will be devastating not only for staff but also for the loyal HSBC customers who will lose their community branch.
"Unite is again calling on the banking industry to rethink such branch culling exercises, which do nothing to reassure customers or staff that banking is accessible and open to all."
Unite revealed last week that Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close 79 branches with the loss of more than 400 jobs.
It comes as banks remain embroiled in a row over free-to-use cash machines, which could lead to customers being charged to withdraw money.
The 39 members of the Link network are locked in talks over how to fund the tens of thousands of ATMs, which cost £900 million a year to run.
Link members - including major high street banks - are due to meet on Thursday, but the organisation has ruled out a quick solution and expects talks to spill over into March.