Holding meetings with Senior Bank Officials is unfortunately a bit of a norm in my diary these days. I most recently met with Santander, following their announcement to close their Llangefni Branch in July.
It was an opportunity for me to convey the same message to them as I’ve raised with every other bank that has closed its doors on Ynys Môn communities – yes, footfall in their branches is falling, but like everywhere else, they are still just as keen to make a profit off of Anglesey residents!
Their decision means that it is harder for people to have direct contact with financial services. For example, I specifically raised mortgage services. Many still feel more comfortable to speak directly with an advisor, face to face, whilst discussing such serious matters. Without that contact, people may be losing out on savings on such products.
They told me that they do not wish to go through this process again in future – which is good news for the Holyhead branch for the time being, but my faith in the sector’s desire to play a role in safeguarding our communities’ interests is low whilst reflecting on the trend over recent years. I pressed again for co-operation between banks in order to keep a presence and accessibility within our communities.
It was also an opportunity to discuss Welsh language services. I’m hearing from many people who are concerned about losing their branch and the local staff, and the effect of that on bilingual services that are currently on offer. As a branch closes, customers are encouraged to bank online. But of course, with online services not available in Welsh, that means a change of language whilst banking for many. This aspect of the conversation was fairly positive, and we discussed the possibility of Santander developing a bilingual banking app so that people can carry on banking in their first language if they choose to do so.
I remember being part of a delegation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg a quarter of a century ago, asking one of the high street banks to offer cashpoints in Welsh. “We can’t” they told us. Well, our campaign was successful then, and I look forward to a successful campaign for Welsh online banking systems from the banks too.