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Ulster Bank shutting nine Northern Ireland branches and axing jobs

By John Mulgrew

Ulster Bank is shutting nine branches across Northern Ireland and cutting around 10 jobs at their brokerage team.

It's closing the branches in October this year. They include the Antrim Road, Woodstock Road, Boucher Road and Newtownbreda in Belfast, Kircubbin in Co Down, Garvagh and Monkstown in Co Antrim and Ulster Bank's Londonderry branch close to the Millennium Forum.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed this week that the closure of up to 10 branches was due this month.

It's believed senior staff were briefed on the closures on Thursday.

Sean Murphy, managing director of personal banking, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said:

"Ulster Bank will close nine branches in Northern Ireland in October 2017. Banking has changed radically in recent years. More and more of our customers are using digital technology and fewer are using our branch network.

"Closing a branch is never an easy decision and one we do not take lightly. Recognising that customers expect different services from their bank, we continue to invest in a range of channels to improve access in a sustainable way, such as our Bank on Wheels, 24/7 telephone banking and our services available through the Post Office.

"Ulster Bank still retains Northern Ireland’s largest bank branch network and its only Bank on Wheels service, as well providing ongoing education for customers in how to make best use of these services. We will also be introducing additional digital and community support roles to assist with this transition."

"In line with the industry-agreed UK protocol on branch closures, we are writing to customers of these branches to inform them of alternative branch locations in their area and the range of banking services available on their mobiles, online, telephone and in post offices. We are also communicating directly with staff in those affected branches."

Larry Broderick, general secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU) said the announcement is another “blow for staff, customers and the communities they serve”.

"The announcement comes hard on the heels of First Trust Bank’s decision to close half its branches in Northern Ireland.

"The fact that in the first three months of the year a total of 24 branch closures have been announced demands a response from all stakeholders.”

"The FSI has been to the forefront in calling for a long-term strategy for banking and financial services in Northern Ireland.

"We urgently need to get financial institutions, customer representatives, business groups, politicians and our union working together on a strategy that looks forward five or 10 years and maps out what type of banking structure Northern Ireland requires.

"We are willing to play our part in that task and I hope that others will also show leadership."

The union says around six voluntary redundancies across the branches, along with nine job losses at its 'mortgage intermediary unit'.

In 2014, Ulster Bank announced it was cutting 10 of its branches, bringing the number from 75 to 65.

In April last year it announced it was cutting 50 jobs across Northern Ireland, and shutting some branches on Saturdays.

Just last month First Trust revealed it is shutting half of its branch network here.

It is understood around 130 staff are facing voluntary redundancy after it announced it was closing 15 branches.

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