Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Danske Bank 'sacrificing rural customers' as 3 branches shut

Northern Bank rebranded as Danske Bank
Northern Bank rebranded as Danske Bank

Danske Bank has been accused of selling out its country customers after it announced the closure of three Down branches.

Banks at Warrenpoint, Newcastle and Castlewellan will pull down the shutters in May as Danske said it was continuing to respond to customers' use of phone and online banking.

In a statement, Danske – which changed its name from Northern Bank last year – said the Warrenpoint branch would merge with Newry and Newcastle and Castlewellan with Downpatrick. Staff from all three would be moved to other branches.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said the decision proved that banks were "more concerned about profit margins".

She said she would table questions to the Chancellor about whether it exerted any control over banks and the services they provide to rural customers.

But Danske said branch closures "reflect that the use of branches is changing".

It said: "We have closed some city, suburban and rural branches – each influenced by the impact of changing consumer habits and the increasing popularity of other ways to bank. Our rural customers are very important to us. They will of course continue to be supported by our agri-banking team, business banking specialists, our teams in other local branches – over 20 of which open all day on a Saturday – and through our services available through the Post Office network, in addition to the online service."

The closures will take place on May 10.

Patrick Clarke, an Alliance councillor in Newcastle, said the closures were "bad news" for customers, and that the decision to close Castlewellan and Newcastle, "beggars belief".

Ms Ritchie said she would meet senior executives at the bank to ask questions "to ensure that they understand that the customer, their needs and the requirement to stimulate the economy is put at the top of their agenda".

Factfile

Number of branches

April 2003: 95 (Northern Bank)

April 2009: 90 (Northern Bank)

April 2012: 72 (Northern Bank)

February 2013: 62 (Danske Bank)

May 2013: 59 (Danske Bank)

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