Belfast Telegraph

Santander staff in Northern Ireland hit by branch closures could be moved to other roles

By Christine Carrigan

Banking giant Santander is to shut three branches in Northern Ireland as the company launches a restructuring bid, although it is hopeful staff redundancies can be avoided.

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With around 25 stores across the region, branches in Antrim, Ballymoney and Belfast's Newtownards Road are among a list of 140 earmarked for closure - with the cuts affecting 1,270 employees UK-wide.

Some 25 people are employed in the three branches set to close here.

The lender said yesterday that it hoped the staff members could be redeployed to the Belfast contact centre, where there are currently 68 vacancies.

Last year the bank closed four branches across Belfast, located at Donegall Square East, Shaftesbury Square, Queen's University and Ulster University's Jordanstown campus.

The latest additions to the list will close by June 20.

The announcement comes just two months after Santander revealed that its pre-tax profits took a 15% hit in 2018, falling to £1.39bn.

In a statement yesterday morning, the company said that the closures were in response to how customers were choosing to bank.

The number of transactions carried out via Santander branches has fallen by 23% over the past three years, while transactions via digital channels have grown by 99% over the same period.

The bank has consulted with trade unions on the closures and will seek to find alternative roles for employees affected wherever possible. It expects to be able to redeploy around a third of all UK staff affected.

Despite the closures, Santander said it will invest £55m in 100 branches over the next two years as part of the restructuring plan.

The future network of 614 stores will be made up of a combination of larger branches.

The lender said it would focus on personal service, convenience and community engagement.

All Santander current and business account holders can also bank using one of more than 11,000 Post Office branches across the UK.

Susan Allen, head of retail and business banking at Santander, said: "The way our customers are choosing to bank with us has changed dramatically in recent years, with more and more customers using online and mobile channels.

"As a result, we have had to take some very difficult decisions over our less visited branches and those where we have other branches in close proximity.

"We will support customers of closing branches to find alternative ways to bank with us that best suit their individual needs.

"We continue to believe that branches have a vital role to play and we will be refurbishing 100 of our branches over the next two years.

"We are confident that, following these changes, we will have the right branch network to serve our customers' changing needs and we expect the size of our network to remain stable for the foreseeable future."

Belfast Telegraph

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