First Trust is a subsidiary of AIB in the Republic of Ireland, and has gone through major changes in recent years.
Within the last four years, its workforce in Northern Ireland has gone from 1,200 people to around 700. And its branch network has also shrunk, with the announcement in February of the closure of 15 more branches — around half of its network — between June and August this year. It said there had been a 40% decline in branch usage over the last seven years, while mobile phone usage had more than doubled in two years.
As the closures were announced, it said it had set up a partnership with the Post Office to enable customers to conduct their everyday transactions. But pre-tax profits have rallied at the bank, reaching £54m during 2016. It’s the first year that the bank has reported standalone results for Northern Ireland. Chief executive Des Moore has said business lending has grown substantially in recent times, with £600m in loans approved during 2015. First Trust has also set up several funds and loan schemes to boost certain areas of business.
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