UK financial watchdog ‘could block branch closures’

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is exploring new regulation that would enable it to block banks from shutting High Street branches to make sure consumers have access to cash, sources briefed on the watchdog’s deliberations told the Financial Times (FT) on Tuesday.

In a consultation published last month, the government said that it had plans to give broad powers to the UK watchdog to ensure “reasonable” access for customers to withdraw and deposit cash.

The Treasury added that the UK watchdog would have “discretion” to outline how this aim shall be met.

Two people involved in the discussions reportedly told the newspaper that senior regulators have been telling banks that face-to-face banking should remain important, alongside ATMs and cashback.

A source close to the FCA added that while the government consultation included no clear definitions, the regulator was “pretty clear where it’s going.”

“Powers will allow them to say: ‘If there aren’t good enough face-to-face services in place, we can block [branch closures],” they told the FT.

The FCA declined to comment.

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