Amanda Bell, Cash Access UK's Delivery Director, explores what it takes to develop a Banking Hub
Things have moved very quickly since December 2021, when the major banking providers announced that they were joining forces to protect access to cash. The banks launched Cash Access UK just before Christmas 2022, Brixham and Cottingham joined Rochford and Cambuslang as the UK’s first ‘Hub towns’, and we now have dozens more Hubs to deliver! Delivering Banking Hubs is a huge responsibility. We never lose sight of how important these new services are to local communities and work as hard as we can to open the doors as quickly as possible.
Finding the right building
On the same day that LINK announces a new Banking Hub, we can get to work finding the right building. It can be really challenging to find a property that’s the right size, in the perfect central location, that’s available to lease at a good price exactly when we want it.
Accessibility is one of our top considerations, so a Banking Hub needs to be at the centre of the community. Often the towns and villages we work with are quite spread out, so we need to understand how people get about and what the best location will be. We usually look for buildings that are very close to other local amenities, so people can get everything from their food shopping to cash services easily.
The condition of the building can have a big impact on our plans too. Sometimes we’ll identify what looks like the perfect building, until we get inside and start looking around. Buildings that have been unused for some time can develop all kinds of problems. We often see significant structural issues, mould and a surprisingly large number of buildings need electrics and heating systems replacing.
Even if a building looks good on a first visit, we might find that the basement isn’t strong enough to support the structure of the Hub when the full weight of the equipment is factored in. If the building needs work, is listed, or we need permission to change its use, we need to secure planning permission, which in itself can take a few months to come through. Once we’ve found a building that works, we hand over to solicitors to carry out all the legal work ready for the lease to be signed by both parties.
After the lease is signed
Once a lease is signed we can start to transform the space. We look for local builders and engineers who are available to take on the work quickly and at a competitive price. It’s a challenging time for contractors, with some raw materials not always available and many businesses booked up with existing jobs for a number of months. We’ve worked with some fantastic local builders so far, as you can see from the images of Brixham and Cottingham.
In parallel with the building work, we speak to our Member firms who have customers in the local community to decide which bank or building society’s Community Bankers will be available on which day of the week. About 6 weeks out from launch, training begins for the Community Bankers and the Post Office team who will provide the counter services.
Everyone who works for Cash Access UK, our delivery partners and our Member firms are deeply committed to serving these communities in the best way possible, so launch day is hugely important to us. Seeing the Hub packed with members of the public, local councillors, MPs and the media on the day really brings home how welcome these new services are and how much value they will add to the community. I'm looking forward to a lot more launch days over the coming months.