The slow death of walk-in retail banking in Dungiven will be largely completed when the Ulster Bank closes its doors in less than a fortnight’s time.
The Consumer Council has said it will be supporting local Ulster Bank customers, particularly older people, ahead of the planned closure of its Dungiven branch on June 19.
Dr. Catriona MacArthur, Director of Consumer Insight, Empowerment and Protection at the Consumer Council said: “It can be worrying and inconvenient when a bank branch closes so our advice is to think about your particular needs and preferences when it comes to banking; then contact Ulster Bank on 0345 948 2222 to check how those needs can be met in the future.
“You could consider online, mobile or telephone banking.
“If you are not satisfied, take a look at the Consumer Council’s financial services map showing alternative banking services in the Dungiven area. Consider switching if that is the best choice for you.”
Dr. MacArthur pointed out that in the last eight years 42 per cent of bank branches across the North have closed.
Ulster Bank originally announced last November that Dungiven would be among 11 local branches that would be closing here.
It said it had taken the decision to cut back on ‘Main Street’ outlets after reviewing the number of transactions conducted in local branches across the North over the period June 2012 to 2017 and discovering that branch usage was down 40 per cent overall since 2014.
Ulster Bank has linked the decline in branch usage to a huge rise in online banking over recent years.
It cites 1.1 billion mobile and online transactions in the first half of 2017 - an increase of 41 per cent since the second half of 2014 as one of the factors leading to its decision to close the 11 branches, including Dungiven.
It claims the number of customers using Ulster Bank’s mobile software application was also up by 43 per cent from 2014, and that mobile transactions were up by 73 per cent from 2014 – with 3,531 log-ins per minute in the third quarter of last year, immediately prior to the closure announcement.
This will be of cold comfort to older customers and those distrustful of transacting their banking business over the internet, however.
So in order to support these people the Consumer Council has produced a range of materials and guides to help affected customers including a branch closure factsheet, a personal banking guide, a guide to switching banks, and a current account comparison table.
All of these are available free of charge by contacting the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, they can be downloaded from www.consumercouncil.org.uk.
The council’s Dungiven financial services map, which covers a 0.5 mile radius from the Ulster Bank branch, however, makes for stark viewing.
In less than two weeks’ time Dungiven, for the first time since 1871, will be without a bank in which local citizens and businesses can conduct their business.
They will, of course, be able to access services at the local Credit Union, the Post Office, and several automated teller machines at Bank of Ireland, Euro Spar, 39 Station Road, Dungiven, Cardtronics, Spar, 2 Glenroe Park, Dungiven, and Cardtronics, Jimmy’s Service Station, 804 Feeny Road, Dungiven.
And as Ulster Bank itself points out: “As an Ulster Bank customer you can get a balance, make withdrawals using your debit card and PIN and pay in cash and cheques with a pre-printed paying-in slip at any Post Office.
“Business customers can also use Post Offices to make cheque deposits and cash deposits of up to £2,000 with a pre-printed paying-in slip, debit card withdrawals of up to £500. They can register with their Relationship Manager for a change giving service, nominating a Post Office of their choice, for this service.”