THE Bank of Ireland have announced that they are to close a number of branches across Belfast as part of a wider restructuring which will see the closure of over 100 branches across Ireland.
The bank currently operate five branches in the city and one in Glengormley.
While the Andersonstown Road, Belfast city centre and Glengormley branches are set to remain open, the bank plans to close all three of their branches in south Belfast.
These are currently located on Lisburn Road, Ormeau Road and University Road. The bank will contact customers individually regarding the closures which are expected to take place in twelve weeks.
Bank of Ireland branches in NI which are closing— Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) March 1, 2021
Belfast (Lisburn Rd),
Belfast (Ormeau Rd),
Belfast (University Rd),
Derry (Strand Rd)
This comes as customer trends within the banking sector are changing. In a statement the bank said that footfall at branches has fallen significantly since 2017 and that currently 52% of their transactions take place in a post office.
They added: "Personal and business customers will be able to use over 500 Post Office branches to make lodgements of cash and cheques, withdraw cash and make balance enquiries.
"Bank of Ireland business customers will also be able to access enhanced services including cheque encashment, bulk cash lodgements and obtaining pre-ordered coin at nominated Post Office outlets."
Bank of Ireland business customers will also be able to access enhanced services including cheque encashment, bulk cash lodgements and obtaining pre-ordered coin at nominated Post Office outlets."
Reacting to the news, the Alliance Party's South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw expressed her disappointment at all the move. Speaking to belfastmedia.com she said: “I am extremely disappointed by the Bank of Ireland’s announcement to close such vital branches in my constituency, particularly during a time of international crisis. My heart goes out to all those employees who will face a huge amount of anxiety and financial uncertainty as these changes are implemented.
"Though I accept that online banking is on the increase, physical branches are an essential point of access for those who are older and who may be less mobile. Removing the option of local banking forces the vulnerable to travel further to receive help and advice on financial matters. For many, it is becoming more and more difficult to make contact with their bank.
“A number of banks have also closed in the University Quarter in recent years, and this can cause problems for those students who are living away from home. The loss of the Bank of Ireland on University Road will be felt by young people in particular,” added the South Belfast MLA.
Addressing the additional impact that these closures may have, Ms Bradshaw finished: “These closures will not only affect customers, but they will also have a knock-on effect on South Belfast businesses. The Lisburn Road, Ormeau Road and University Road represent thriving and vibrant areas of my constituency, but it has been a difficult year for our entrepreneurs. This announcement will be a further blow for them, which will impact on footfall and custom."
Commenting on the closures, the bank's Chief Executive Ian McLaughlin said: "Technology is evolving, and customers are using branches less. Covid-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour, and over the past 12 months we’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital banking.
“Digital banking is growing fast, while branch footfall is dropping sharply. We’ve now reached a tipping point between online and offline banking, and that’s why we’ve announced changes to our branch network. However, our agreement with the Post Office means we continue to protect local access to physical banking for those who want it.
“We know news like this can cause concern for some customers. We’re not making these changes immediately, giving us time to communicate fully with all our customers about every option available to them – online, in an alternative Bank of Ireland branch, or at a local post office.
We know news like this can cause concern for some customers. We’re not making these changes immediately, giving us time to communicate fully with all our customers about every option available to them – online, in an alternative Bank of Ireland branch, or at a local post office.
“Bank of Ireland has been serving the community since 1825 and these changes mean we can continue to play a strong role in Northern Ireland" he added.
Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster Programme, Mr McLauglin said that "no compulsory redundancies are involved" and that the bank were working to redeploy staff as an alternative to redundancy.
In addition to the closures, the bank have also announced that they are set to move their UK Headquarters from London to Belfast.
Last August, the Bank of Ireland announced that they were aiming to cut 1,400 jobs across their UK and Ireland operations.
The news that the Bank of Ireland are to close a number of branches comes days after Ulster Bank announced that they are to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland over the next few years.