United Kingdom

Bank of Ireland to shut down 103 branches from September

Bank of Ireland is set to shut down over a third of its bank branches in the Republic and more than half in Northern Ireland as it announced the closure of a total of 103 branches. 

Some 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland will start closing down in September, reducing the network to 169, in a move branded as 'ruthlessly opportunistic' by critics. 

In Northern Ireland, the bank will shut down 15 of its 28 branches, leaving just 13 open, the lender said today as it unveiled its annual results.

Branch closures: Some 88 branches in the Republic and 15 in Northern Ireland will close down from September

The news comes just 10 days after NatWest said it would withdraw from the Republic of Ireland, where it owns Ulster Bank. 

Bank of Ireland said the majority of the branches that are closing are self-service locations which do not offer a counter service. 

Around 200 members of staff will be affected by the branch closures, although the bank's boss said there would be no compulsory redundancies. 

Bank of Ireland's chief executive, Francesca McDonagh, said the number of people using branches has 'sharply declined', with now just over half of what it was in 2017 and down 60 per cent at the branches earmarked for closure.

'Technology is evolving and customers are using branches less, year on year on year,' she said.

'Covid-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour and we've seen a seismic shift towards digital banking over the past 12 months.' 

McDonagh added that Bank of Ireland has reached a 'tipping point' between online and offline banking, with its mobile app the most popular way to bank. 

Closures, which will start in September, follow a deal with An Post to offer customers access to banking services at more than 900 locations. 

Only 10 days ago NatWest said it would withdraw from the Republic of Ireland, where it owns Ulster Bank

'We're not making these changes immediately - no branches will close in the next six months,' McDonagh said.

'That allows us to ensure the An Post partnership is up and running before any branches close, and gives us time to communicate fully with all our customers about every option available to them online, in a nearby BOI branch, or at a local post office.' 

Speaking on RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme, McDonagh said there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the branch closures.

'Two hundred people, colleagues, are impacted,' she said.

'They have choices. If they want to work in another branch they can work in another part of the business and obviously new ways of working means people have more access to jobs in different locations.

'Or if they choose they can take voluntary redundancy but there is no compulsory element to the announcements we're making today.'     

Labour's finance spokesman, Ged Nash, described Bank of Ireland's plans as a 'kick in the teeth' for thousands of loyal customers and staff, and called for a pause on branch closures during the pandemic.

'There is no doubt that Bank of Ireland is exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to drive down its costs,' he said.

'The bank's ruthlessly opportunistic plans to cull 88 branches in towns across the state will have an even more severe and direct impact on the fabric of communities across the country than Ulster Bank's recent announcement, given their extensive reach.

'This move has been on their agenda for some time and it was telling that the bank refused to share the terms of reference of the operational review which has provided the basis for this decision with the Financial Services Union, who represent the bulk of branch staff.' 

Nash added: 'Last March, Bank of Ireland unilaterally closed over 100 branches without due statutory notice and many of those branches are now only partially reopened.

'They cannot be allowed to get away with an unparalleled branch closure frenzy of this magnitude with impunity.

'As a 16 per cent shareholder in the bank, the Minister for Finance must play a public interest role along with the Central Bank to pause bank branch closures for now and to fully interrogate Bank of Ireland's decision and hold bank management to account.'

Savings accounts

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