Bank of Ireland to close service centres that employ 420

Back office closure likely to see 200 employees leave bank

Bank of Ireland’s 250-strong branch network is unaffected by the decision.  Photograph: iStock

Bank of Ireland’s 250-strong branch network is unaffected by the decision. Photograph: iStock

 

Bank of Ireland is set to close its 27 back office service centres around the country, affecting 420 employees as their activities are centralised and a number of temporary projects conducted at the locations draw to an end.

Staff were told on Thursday of the decision, and that there were openings for redeployment as the lender seeks to expand customer-facing positions by about 100, with a further 60 vacancies elsewhere in the bank that need to be filled.

The service centre closures are likely to see more than 200 employees leave the bank under a voluntary redundancy plan or through early retirement, according to sources.

A spokesman for the bank confirmed that the bank was winding down its operational support centres by the end of the year.

“Bank of Ireland’s key strategic priorities include transforming the bank and enhancing customer service. To achieve these priorities, we are restructuring our business model, streamlining our organisation, and increasing our focus on customer facing roles,” he said, adding that the bank’s 250-strong branch network was unaffected by the move.

“The various options and timelines will be discussed again with colleagues in one-on-one meetings with line managers over the coming weeks,” the spokesman said.

Management cull

The development comes weeks after The Irish Times first reported that Bank of Ireland, headed by chief executive Francesca McDonagh since last October, is seeking to cull 15 per cent of manager and executive roles, which may result in the elimination of 200 jobs. The bank has also seen a number of senior executives depart, or signal plans to exit in the past eight months.

The Financial Services Union (FSU) said on Thursday that it was against the decision to close the 27 service centres, saying that while there would be opportunities for redeployment for some of the staff, their future was unclear.

“A narrow focus on short-sighted cost reductions is bad for staff, bad for customers and bad for communities they serve,” said Dermot Ryan, general secretary of the FSU. “Achieving commercial goals, in a profitable bank like Bank of Ireland, need not entail closing service centres and proposing significant job losses.”

Bank of Ireland’s staff count has fallen by almost 30 per cent since 2008 to about 11,200, including staff who left under a voluntary redundancy plan initiated in 2012. Ms McDonagh promised in her first briefing with analysts in February that she would reduce operating expenses at the group this year after they rose by 3 per cent to €1.8 billion in 2017.

Meanwhile, analysts expect Ms McDonagh to outline at a gathering of analysts and investors – or what is known as a capital markets day – in June how it plans to cut costs further under its ongoing €900 million information technology (IT) improvement plan.