Santander bank to offer foreign exchange through Post Office

From 2015, Santander bank will offer foreign exchange and other bank services to customers through the UK’s Post Office branch counter network.

HSBC was the last big bank to come on board after it extended services through the Post Office to all customers in May 2013. Last year RBS and NatWest broadened their offering through the Post Office to include paying in cash and cheques, boosting the number of locations for everyday banking to 22,500. But the services customers can access through the Post Office vary across banks.

The latest move is part of broader efforts to inject competition into the banking sector as well as broaden accessibility as banks move to digitise and reduce costly branch networks.

The UK government unveiled plans at the end of 2014 for the large high street banks to offer “fee free” basic bank accounts, to extend banking services to those who otherwise could not afford to gain access. But pressure to ensure access is also mounting as Britain’s biggest lenders close branches. More than 450 high street bank branches closed last year, of which 124 were “the last bank in town”, according to the Campaign for Community Banking Services.

The Post Office is seeking to use its extensive branch network to expand its direct financial services business. As part of a re-brand, financial services will be offered through Post Office Money, providing foreign exchange, current accounts, savings, insurance and loan services.