First Trust to close 15 Northern Ireland branches in July
First Trust is to shut half of its branches across Northern Ireland as part of a dramatic shake-up within the bank.
It was revealed yesterday that the bank was starting a "reshaping and investment" programme which would see the closure of 15 branches here. Those affected are Antrim, Andersonstown, Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Crescent Link in Londonderry, Downpatrick, High Street in Belfast, Knock (Upper Newtownards Road), Magherafelt, Newtownards, Ormeau Road in Belfast, Portadown, Strabane and Warrenpoint.
The closures will start from the beginning of July. The Financial Services Union (FSU) described the closures as a "serious blow" to staff, customers and the Northern Ireland economy.
Larry Broderick, general secretary of the FSU, said: "While staff were aware of an ongoing restructuring plan at First Trust, the scale of closures announced has come as a shock to staff.
"Great teams in bank branches now face the prospect of closure and relocation.
"It is a major blow."
Head of First Trust Des Moore said the bank has seen a 40% decline in branch usage in the last seven years, while they also experienced a 117% increase in mobile phone transactions in the last two years.
First Trust Bank undertook an 18-month review of their services because of "changing customer behaviours and trends" coupled with the shift from branch usage towards digital banking.
Mr Moore said: "We have had to make the difficult decision to close a number of branches."
And he added: "We will be working hard to minimise the impact on the customers and staff concerned."
First Trust also announced a £10m investment strategy for personal and business customers, including five new business centres across Northern Ireland.
The bank also agreed a partnership with the Post Office which will allow customers to bank in any of their offices.