FCA survey reveals urban-rural savings divide

Customers in rural areas of the UK are far less likely to use mobile banking than their urban counterparts, according to research.

FCA survey reveals urban-rural savings divide

The findings, from research conducted by the Financial Services Authority (FCA), could reignite debate over bank branch closures, particularly in rural locations.

Already this year, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has confirmed 162 of its branches will close across England and Wales, with 792 jobs going. Lloyds, too, announced in March that it will be closing 49 branches.

The FCA’s Financial Lives report, which surveyed 13,000 people on their finances, also suggests that those in rural areas are more satisfied with their financial circumstances than their urban counterparts, despite those in urban areas having better access to financial services.

In rural areas, a higher than average proportion of adults (13 percent) aged 55 and over, or who are younger and have a long-term health condition, have difficulty getting to a bank. This compares to nine percent in urban areas. On top of that, of UK adults who never use the internet, 70 percent (or 3.7 million people) live in rural areas and the take-up of mobile banking in rural areas (23 percent) is nearly half that in urban areas (45 percent).

It also exposed a north-south savings divide.

Across England, the highest proportion of adults with characteristics of potential vulnerability are found in the North West (55 percent), compared to 46 percent in the South West.

Adults in London have the highest levels of over-indebtedness, with 17 percent compared to the 15 percent UK average). At 11 percent, those living in Yorkshire and the Humber are most likely to be ‘in difficulty’, compared to the UK average of eight percent.

Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive, said: “This survey shows just how different the experience of financial services is for consumers across the country. That’s important for us, as we shape financial services policy. But it is also important for firms, as they decide how best to serve their customers.”