The Federation of Small Businesses offered advice for those affected by closures.
Rural economies relying on local bank branches need to be offered suitable alternatives before those branches are closed, with small firms still valuing in-person support for complex transactions and big decisions.
That was the message from Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mark Cherry following the announcement of the closure of 259 Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest branches.
RBS attributed the closures to a 40 per cent fall in usage since 2014, as well as a 41 per cent increase in mobile and online banking.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Small businesses should receive at least 12 weeks’ notice alongside advice about banking alternatives before any branch closure.
“The Access to Banking Standard details the obligations banks have to their customers when they close branches and it’s vital that those obligations are met.
“We would encourage those caught unexpectedly by a branch closure to explore the online services offered by different banks to see if they present a workable alternative to in-person support. Equally, firms can consider the banking services offered at their local post offices.
“Of course these services vary in quality and poor broadband and digital skills remain a barrier to internet banking for some, particularly those in rural areas. What we need to see is lenders meeting the Access to Banking Standard without fail so all businesses have alternatives prepared long before a bank branch closure happens.”
Many banks, including RBS, do offer help getting people onto online banking for those unsure how to use it.
RBS said businesses should speak to their contact to provide details of alternatives, including courier services for those not wishing to visit another branch.
Other options include mobile branches which are available in some locations and local post offices where customers can view their balance, make withdrawals and pay in cash and cheques, as well as make withdrawals and register for change giving services.
Despite previous restructuring, the Post Office said 99.7 per cent of people live within three miles of their local post office.
Mr Cherry added access to cash was a big issue and while more small firms were accepting credit and debit cards, it added costs, and many customers in rural and tourist areas only dealt in cash.
The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) warned more rural services closing were contributing to rural depopulation which could have a ‘severe effect’ on the local economies, with 20 closures planned for Wales.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “These banks are 70 per cent owned by the UK taxpayer, so we have to ask why are there no conditions to the bailout that guarantees access to such services. It is clear that Governments must do more for rural Wales.
He added: “If the problem of rural depopulation is not addressed with some urgency it could have severe consequences for our rural communities and with that also our rural economy.
“It is clear that if we want to ensure that Wales develops its full potential in being a rural economic powerhouse, we must make it attractive for working families to stay and also encourage vital services like business banking to remain available."