Belfast Telegraph

Call for rethink over cuts as First Trust posts £54m profit

By John Mulgrew

First Trust in Northern Ireland has made pre-tax profits of £54m - up 15% - just a week after announcing it was shutting half of its branch network here.

The bank, part of AIB, has revealed a breakdown for First Trust for the first time in its full accounts.

It warned that, given Northern Ireland's political instability, the uncertainty may have an "adverse effect" on the group.

"If an arrangement cannot be agreed, the current political structures in Northern Ireland may be subject to significant change," it said.

"The uncertainty resulting from these developments may have an adverse effect on economic conditions in Northern Ireland, which could in turn have an adverse effect on the group, given its operations there."

AIB announced pre-tax profits of €1.7bn (£1.46bn) for the year ending 2016. It proposes a dividend of €250m (£214m) to ordinary shareholders.

The overall UK business, which includes First Trust, posted pre-tax profits of £140m for the same period.

The overall UK business, which includes First Trust, posted pre-tax profits of £140m.

It's understood the bank is seeking 130 voluntary redundancies in Northern Ireland.

Larry Broderick, general secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU), said: "These results demonstrate clearly the contribution that staff and customers of First Trust Bank are making to the recovery of AIB Group.

"First Trust Bank is profitable and is making a very valuable contribution to overall AIB Group profits. Against this background, I am calling on AIB Group to revisit its decision to close half its branch network in Northern Ireland. Many of these branches are contributing to the overall profitability of First Trust Bank.

"The rationale for closures has to be re-examined in light of these very positive figures."

Head of First Trust Des Moore said the bank had seen a 40% decline in branch usage in the last seven years, with mobile banking up 117% in two years.

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