AIB to close eight of 15 branches in Northern Ireland
AIB has announced it will be closing eight of its branches in Northern Ireland, leaving just seven.
In a statement, the bank said the decision to close 60% of its network was taken after a strategic review which saw a 33% dip in the number of customers using its branch network and a 52% increase in digital online payments since the end of 2017.
The branches closing on November 12 are Bangor, Coleraine, Glengormley, Kilkeel, Lisburn, Lurgan, Newcastle and Omagh and their adjoining ATMs.
Remaining open will be the AIB branches in Ballymena, Donegall Square North in Belfast, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Meadowbank, Newry and University Road in Belfast.
Having invested £25m in Northern Ireland over the last four years, AIB’s reshaped strategy will enhance services for business and mortgage customers with faster, more efficient borrowing decisions. The bank will continue to serve customers in its seven remaining branches and is dedicated to ensuring continuous improvements to its overall digital experience for customers, through developing remote account opening for new personal customers and a digital mortgage offering.
At the same time, AIB is also enhancing its successful partnership with the Post Office which enables customers to conduct their everyday personal and business banking transactions in any of the 500 plus Post Offices across Northern Ireland, all of which are less than one mile away from any of the branches that will be closing.
The bank has stated it will be mitigating any job losses through alternative opportunities where possible, and that a voluntary severance programme would also be available.
AIB said the pandemic had accelerated a trend for customers to move away from using branches but that it would continue to offer a full service offering.
Brian Gillan, Head of Retail & NI, AIB, said: “We are operating in a very competitive and challenging landscape, with the added impacts of low interest rates and the pandemic. This backdrop coupled with the continued shift from branch usage towards digital banking has necessitated this strategic review. The ‘digital first’ customer transition, which has been an industry-wide trend over the past four years, has accelerated dramatically due to the Covid-19 pandemic as even more people adapted to online platforms.
“Since December 2017, we have witnessed an average 33% reduction in the number of active customers using our branch network and a 52% increase in digital online payments in the same period. These undeniable and irreversible trends have in turn influenced our strategy and led to the decision to close branches that are no longer sustainable. Our focus will be on minimising the impact for customers who continue to use the branch while also further improving online banking experiences.
“Our highly successful partnership with the Post Office – already used by 30% of active customers – will be expanded to include additional transactional services for business customers such as faster cash deposits.
“We assure customers that we remain fully committed to them and to Northern Ireland, providing them with a full service personal and business banking offering alongside an enhanced focus on both business and mortgage lending. Our priority is to ensure the bank has a sustainable future in Northern Ireland, which allows us to support our customers and play our part in strengthening the wider economy.”
Customers will continue to be served in seven remaining branches and new options will include remote account opening for personal customers and a digital mortgage offering.
The Financial Services Union described the bank’s decision to shut 60% of its branch network in Northern Ireland is scandalous and should be condemned by the Government.
John O’Connell, General Secretary of the Financial Services Union, stated: “Only a week ago the Finance Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion calling on all Banks to pause any branch closures until society and the economy had recovered from Covid -19.
“In the last week Danske Bank have announced four branch closures and now AIB have announced that they are to close 8 branches from its existing network of 15. This is in addition to the recent cull of 13 branches by Bank of Ireland to its branch network in Northern Ireland. It is clear that the Banks are taking no notice of stakeholders, policy makers or the wishes of their customers.
“Banks should be assisting customers and small businesses in recovering from the effect of Covid not adding to their worry and stress levels by withdrawing vital services from communities. There is no need for Banks to make these decisions at this time. They are using statistics drawn from a period of societal lock down which cannot and should not be relied on to judge future customer behaviour.
“Change is happening in the Banking sector at a rapid pace. If we continue to allow the Banks to lead that change, we will end up without a banking infrastructure that will serve all people in our society.
“The FSU call on the main shareholder of AIB, Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe to make a clear statement that Banks should desist from destroying the branch network and pause any branch closures until a full debate can happen on the future of Banking.“
In response the Consumer Council is urging AIB customers to review their banking needs.
Scott Kennerley, Director of Financial Services at the Consumer Council, added: “This announcement will be disappointing news for many AIB customers. Whilst the ability to access banking services through the internet, apps and over the phone is important, there are still many people who rely on face-to-face banking through their local branch.
“This is another blow for consumers who rely on face-to-face banking, following the news that Danske Bank is closing four of its branches in October 2021 and Bank of Ireland has planned 15 branch closures throughout 2021.
“Consumers can continue to visit their nearest Post Office to pay in cash and cheques, withdraw money, and check their balance. Basic banking services is something the Post Office provides for all banks in Northern Ireland.
“Before the AIB branches in Bangor, Coleraine, Glengormley, Kilkeel, Lisburn, Lurgan, Newcastle and Omagh close, we would advise customers to think about their needs and preferences, and then liaise with their local branch to discuss the options that are available. If the bank if unable to meet these needs, you may wish to look at switching provider.
“The Consumer Council is continuing to monitor the impact of branch closures across Northern Ireland and is working closely with the financial sector to represent consumers. We have developed a range of materials and guides to help consumers including a branch closure factsheet, a personal banking guide, a guide to switching banks and a current account comparison table. Consumers can access these on our website www.consumercouncil.org.uk or request copies by calling us on 0800 121 6022 or by emailing us at [email protected]”
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