Local bank branch closures 

Local branches, which have been the bedrock of banking for decades, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  With the expansion of new technologies such as online banking we are challenging the traditional concepts of how we understand and interact with our money.

Half of UK bank branches have disappeared over the past 25 years and a third of Scotland’s branches have closed in the last 8 years, making access to online banking more important than ever before. The problems surrounding decreasing numbers of bank branches have been exacerbated further by the pandemic with some branches being closed for as long as 12 weeks in certain areas.

Digital skills needed for online banking

But what about those who aren’t equipped to make the online switch? According to research carried out by the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, as many as one in five adults in Scotland lack essential digital skills. This means that they are potentially missing out on the benefits of online banking and in danger of being left behind.

At Money Advice Scotland we’ve seen this problem at close quarters. Up until the introduction of lockdown our teams were out in communities across Scotland delivering financial capability training to a range of professionals, those working in the voluntary sector and community-based groups. We reach thousands of people each year and as part of our training we support individuals to effectively manage their money both day day-to-day and through significant life events. Personal banking plays an important role in the financial wellbeing agenda. 

Introducing MAS Online Bank

We have experienced increased demand for educational sessions on online banking, leading us to work with the Tech for Social Good initiative over the past year to help us achieve our aim of widening access to online banking. This project has allowed us to develop an online platform that will provide a test environment for individuals who have not used online banking before to familiarise themselves with how it works.

Banks have been trying to promote and encourage online banking for a significant period of time and whilst there are examples of success, there are very few resources to help people, especially the older population, who are more likely to rely on branch banking, learn the complexities of online banking.

With this in mind, we wanted to create an interactive, realistic, and safe learning platform that would replicate all the features of online banking including checking your balance, reviewing transactions and paying your bills. We believe that an application which demonstrates the key features of online banking would serve as an important educational tool for those who are unaccustomed to banking in this way.

Our new platform, which went live last month, replicates the experience of 5 different profiles, each mirroring different life circumstances, such as a young professional, a family with children and a retired person. This will enable us to use this platform for our workshops with our own service users and draft lesson plans around these profiles, their spending habits, and financial products. Each individual will be given their own login details and be asked to use the platform to carry out tasks such as checking back through statements, setting up a new standing order or paying a bill.

We really hope that our learning platform will be fun to use but more importantly a vital tool to allow people, from all sections of society, to better manage their money and to become more financially capable and confident.

If you would like to register to use our new platform, please complete our registration form, or contact the team on [email protected]