‘I have no phone and no email - what will I do?’ - locals fuming as last bank in Downend announces closure

The Downend HSBC is one of four Bristol branches to close next year, leaving many customers worried about what they will do

On a cold and foggy Thursday morning, business is surprisingly brisk at the HSBC in Downend. The queue inside stretches to the door so it’s not surprising many of the customers are as shocked as they are disappointed that this is one of 114 UK branches HSBC is shutting next year.

In the latest round of closures, HSBC is closing more than a quarter of its remaining sites, claiming that the number of people using them has dropped by 65 per cent in five years.

It’s another blow for people living in the area as the Yate HSBC closed in the summer of 2021. The forthcoming closure next April also means there will be no more banks in Downend, where many people can still remember there being four.

It’s the not the only HSBC in the Bristol area to be closed next year. After Downend, the Filton branch will shut in May 2023, followed by Portishead in July 2023 and Westbury-on-Trym next August.

The digital service branch at Kingswood will stay open, as will the city centre HSBC in Cabot Circus but this won’t help everybody with their banking needs.

Brian Hookings and his wife, Erma, live in Staple Hill and the HSBC in Downend is their nearest branch. They feel so strongly about the news that they may well consider switching banks.

Brian and Erma Hookings

“This is terrible news,” says Brian. “We used to go to Yate but since that closed all the customers come down here.

“My wife doesn’t like using the machines and this is convenient. We’ll probably close the account and move banks when they shut this branch.”

Pensioner Rose from Mangotsfield said she was ‘sad’ that the last bank in Downend was closing and worried because she doesn’t do online banking.

“I have no smartphone, no email, nothing like that, and my husband is disabled. I do all my business here, I get all my cash here - what am I going to do?”

Fellow pensioner Tony Spencer said he used the cash machine outside the HSBC, although there is one further up the road outside Sainsbury’s and there’s also a Post Office across the street.

“To be honest, we do everything else online so we’re guilty of course. The banks wanted people to go online to help speed things up during Covid and then they’ve used that as an excuse to close them down.

“While we can still get out and about, for other people my age who can’t get out it’s a big loss and a lot of people aren’t online at all so where will they go?

“It’s all about money, they’re laying people off so they don’t have to pay salaries and give more to their top executives.”

The Downend HSBC will close in April 2023

Nick Newman was visiting the branch to deposit some cash collected from friends for a golf event and also accompany his teenage daughter who needed to sort out her mobile banking app.

He said: “It’s a big deal this branch closing especially as our HSBC in Yate closed about a year ago. We’ll come here until April and then after that we’ll have to go to Cabot Circus, it’s crazy.

“To be fair, though, I’m quite happy to be cash free and I bank online anyway. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all if there were no banks but I have family members who don’t trust internet banking - they want to take cash to the bank or withdraw cash over the counter.

“A lot of shops still need banks to deposit cash and although some post offices let people deposit cash and cheques, lots of post offices are closing too!”

Peter had made the journey to pay a bill but the express machine inside had just gone down.

“They said I’ll have to come back in an hour or so to see if it’s working again but I have to go somewhere now so I’ll have to come back another day,” he said.

“It’s going to be a big loss when this closes but I suppose it’s a sign of the times. The trouble is, when these things happen, it’s never for the better or with people like me in mind.”