Halifax was the first to shutter its branch, soon followed by Barclays and then last year, NatWest leaving HSBC as the last bank branch in the community.
Until early May that is: HSBC has now axed its Westcliff outlet resulting in the natives of Westcliff having a two mile trip to neighbouring Southend if they wish to visit a branch.
According to figures from the Campaign for Community Banking Services, banks in the United Kingdom more than doubled the rate of closures in 2014 to 479; 210 outlets closed in the first quarter of 2015 along of which 55 were the ‘last branch in the community’.
By coincidence, the closure of the last branch in Westcliff coincided with the opening of Metro Bank’s first store in Southend.
Metro Bank has now opened more than 500,000 accounts since launch in 2010 and has enjoyed a 56% increase in customer numbers in the past year.
Deposits grew by 18% in the first quarter to £3.4bn. Additionally, lending grew by 12.5% compared to the prior quarter to £1.8bn.
It seems a safeish forecast to say that Metro Bank can expect to perform strongly in South Essex; all eyes will turn next year to two key tests. An IPO is expected to raise £300m for Metro Bank and value the lender at £1bn; that also looks a safe bet.
The bigger test will be Metro Bank’s aim to meet its timetable for profitability.
That is that for another five years
The UK banking sector will welcome the political certainty of the general election result. Notwithstanding every opinion poll for over a month ahead of the poll forecasting a hung parliament, the final result was decisive.
The clear cut if unexpected nature of the Conservative victory removed fears about an early second election.
Cameron’s victory also removed the peril of a Labour victory leading to even more penal bank levies.
The appointment of former Deutsche Bank director Sajid Javid as Business Secretary will also be warmly welcomed by the banking sector.
He has, in the past, opposed strongly the concept of a renewed bonus tax and has urged politicians not to slam the City, saying that it represented some of the best of capitalism.
On a less positive note, the new government’s plans for an EU referendum introduce some unwelcome uncertainty into the political equation. It is important that the PM provides some certainty about the planned timetable for the referendum as soon as possible.
Another negative, at least for this writer, was the extent of the Scottish Nationalists landslide in taking 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.
Any move towards another referendum on Scots independence – less than a year after the proposal was defeated 55% to 45% – will do the banking sector north of the border no favours at all.