Understanding spatial variations in accessibility to banks using variable floating catchment area techniques

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In response to changing consumer habits driven by the advance of online services and mobile apps, substantial reductions in the provision of bank branches have been widely documented over the last decade. Such closures have economic consequences for the sustainability of local businesses and the state of local high streets and may disproportionately affect demographic groups such as the elderly, those on low incomes, and those experiencing poor public transport and digital broadband connectivity. Geographical modelling can help to examine and better understand the impacts of bank closures, inform and guide future reductions, and contribute to impact assessment exercises. Many recent studies concerned with the spatial provision of services have adopted Floating Catchment Area techniques, exploring their use in a wide range of thematic and geographical contexts, but hitherto not to retail banking. This study documents the trialling of several approaches to the implementation of variable sized catchments within FCA tools in order to address previous concerns regarding the use of a fixed size catchment in study areas that encompass a wide range of settlement types. Findings suggest considerable potential in applying these tools to the banking sector, whilst also drawing attention to current limitations in the type of data available to differentiate settlement areas and guide parameter settings. However, with the future inclusion of supply-side measures such as branch opening hours and the incorporation of multi-modal travel, FCA tools can enhance existing impact assessment exercises and provide the public with greater confidence that the implications of bank branch closures have been fully considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449 - 472
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Spatial Analysis and Policy
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • floating catchment area techniques
  • Bank branch closures
  • Variable catchments
  • spatial analysis


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