Bank of Ireland to close Derry, Limavady, Strabane and Moville branches
The Bank of Ireland is to close four of its branches in the north west, sparking concerns for staff and provision for customers.
Overall, the financial organisation announced it is to close 15 branches across the north - including Derry’s Strand Road branch, Strabane and Limavady, and 88 in the south, including Moville.
By the end of 2021 the branch network will reduce by 15 (from 28 to 13) in the north as part of an overhaul with a £7m investment in modernising remaining branches and new technology services. Bank of Ireland UK Head Office will also relocate from London to Belfast.
The bank said the acceleration in digital banking has now reached a ‘tipping point’, while adding that enhanced banking services will be available to Bank of Ireland business customers at Post Offices in Northern Ireland.
By the end of 2021, the number of Bank of Ireland branches in Northern Ireland will reduce to 13.
In the Republic of Ireland the branch network will reduce by 88, from 257 to 169 with Moville in Inishowen and a number of others in Donegal affected.
Ian McLaughlin, Bank of Ireland UK CEO, commented: “Technology is evolving, and customers are using branches less. COVID-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour, and over the past 12 months we’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital banking.
“Digital banking is growing fast, while branch footfall is dropping sharply. We’ve now reached a tipping point between online and offline banking, and that’s why we’ve announced changes to our branch network. However, our agreement with the Post Office means we continue to protect local access to physical banking for those who want it.
“We know news like this can cause concern for some customers. We’re not making these changes immediately, giving us time to communicate fully with all our customers about every option available to them – online, in an alternative Bank of Ireland branch, or at a local post office.
“Bank of Ireland has been serving the community since 1825 and these changes mean we can continue to play a strong role in Northern Ireland for the years to come.”
SDLP Economy Spokesperson, Sinéad McLaughlin has said that Bank of Ireland need to urgently clarify how they will protect customers and employees from the impact of their decision.
Ms. McLaughlin said she has been engaged over recent months in an extensive engagement exercise to ensure that Bank of Ireland re-commits to banking in the North.
The Foyle MLA commented: “Bank of Ireland’s review of its operations in Northern Ireland has caused anxiety for staff and personal and business customers. I am deeply concerned at the implications of the decision to cut back its branch network which will have a devastating impact for staff, customers and also the high streets where these operate.
“I am calling on Bank of Ireland to urgently clarify its future plans for Northern Ireland, making clear how it will demonstrate its continued commitment and support for customers, employees and the communities where they operate.
“Bank of Ireland is one of the largest, and therefore one of the most important, banks operating in the North. Had it closed its operations it would have had a serious and damaging impact on banking competition in Northern Ireland.
“With the decision of Ulster Bank to withdraw from banking in the South, only Bank of Ireland and AIB are committed to continued retail banking in both the South and the North. Given the increasing importance of all-island trade following Brexit, the withdrawal of the Bank of Ireland from the North would have been particularly regrettable. It is important that those businesses and individuals trading in both regions continue to have a choice between banks offering all-island facilities.
“Unlike Ulster Bank, which declined to meet with me during its recent operational review, Bank of Ireland did engage with me during its review of operations. I met with Bank of Ireland management, virtually, during the review so that I could make representations for it to continue trading in the North. I also wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority, the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Central Bank of Ireland to urge them to use their influence to pressure the Bank of Ireland to maintain its operations in Northern Ireland. I also met with the Financial Services Union, to assure them of my support in their efforts to protect employees’ jobs and the branch network.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said the announcement by Bank of Ireland that it will close 103 branches across the country including 15 branches in the north is a huge blow to the local economy but first and foremost to the workers and their families.
The Foyle MLA said: “This announcement by Bank of Ireland is a huge blow to our local economy. My thoughts first and foremost are with the workers impacted and their families. It is always difficult to get such news but this is a very challenging time in the middle of a pandemic.
“This news will also be concerning for Bank of Ireland customers, over 200,000 across the north.
“Bank of Ireland must engage fully with its workers and their representatives as this unfolds.
“All efforts must be made to redeploy workers and reskilling opportunities should be made available to support workers.
“A Sinn Féin delegation will be meeting with Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Union to discuss these closures and their impact in full.”