First Trust Bank to close half of its branches in Northern Ireland
First Trust Bank (FTB) is to close half of its branches in Northern Ireland.
The bank said the move followed an 18-month strategic review to ensure sustainability In the face of changing customer behaviour habits.
As well as the region-wide closures, which will halve the number of branches, the bank said it planned a £10 million investment strategy for personal and business customers, including five new business centres.
The bank, which is part of the AIB group, has also agreed a partnership with the Post Office to enable customers to conduct their everyday banking transactions in Post Offices.
Head of First Trust Bank Des Moore said: "Since 2010 we have seen almost a 40% decline in branch usage coupled with a 117% increase in mobile transactions over the past two years and we have had to make the difficult decision to close a number of branches.
"We will be working hard to minimise the impact on the customers and staff concerned."
He added: "We recognise that the pattern of how customers are managing their finances is rapidly evolving in Northern Ireland as it is across Europe.
"Customers are turning to online, telephone and mobile banking and it is essential that we respond.
"As a result, our transformation programme focuses on building a sustainable business model which allows us to support our customers and the wider Northern Ireland economy in the long term."
The bank said its existing voluntary severance programme would be extended to impacted staff.
'Serious blow for staff, customers and the Northern Ireland economy'
General Secretary of the Financial Services Union, Larry Broderick, described the scale of the closures announced today as “a serious blow for staff, customers and the Northern Ireland economy.”
Mr Broderick said: "While staff were aware of an ongoing restructuring plan at FTB the scale of closures announced today has come as a shock to staff. Great teams in bank branches, many who have served their community for many years, now face the prospect closure and relocation. It is a major blow."
"The Financial Services Union has worked hard in recent years to manage change across the banking system. The recent pay and job security deal accepted by staff in AIB Group, which includes First Trust Bank, will ensure that there are no compulsory redundancies as a result of this announcement.
"While opposing the scale of the closures, the Financial Services Union, will work hard over the coming months to ensure that commitments made to staff are upheld and that staff can continue to contribute to the bank and the wider Northern Ireland economy. In particular, we will ensure that any staff departures will be on a voluntary basis. This is a position that the union has fought hard to achieve and is in place until 2019."
Mr Broderick called on stakeholders, including banks, politicians and local communities to support the proposals to deal with proposed branch closures issued last week by the union.
He said the proposals would put a stay on any proposed closure until an independent expert had produced a report outlining how banking services would be provided in a community in the future.
"The future of the branch network is as much a social question as an economic one. We need to assess the social impact and give communities certainty about how they can access banking services when faced with a branch closure.
"Our recent proposals to sustain banking in the community which were circulated to all political parties and independents provide a way of managing that process and I would urge all interested parties to support these proposals."
First Trust branch closure dates
- Antrim - 7 July
- Andersonstown - 7 July
- Armagh - 7 July
- Banbridge - 4 August
- Cookstown - 30 June
- Crescent Link, Derry - 7 July
- Downpatrick - 28 July
- High Street, Belfast - 4 August
- Knock, Upper Newtownards Road - 28 July
- Magherafelt - 28 July
- Newtownards - 30 June
- Ormeau Road, Belfast - 30 June
- Portadown - 4 August
- Strabane - 28 July
- Warrenpoint - 30 June