Ulster Bank tells staff of plan to eliminate 54 branch posts

Move comes on top of 200 job losses among staff addressing mortgage tracker scandal

Ulster Bank has told staff that it plans to cut 54 jobs across its branch network as it moves ahead with technology upgrades. The bank said, however, that no outlets will be closed.

“More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on our mobile app,” said a bank spokeswoman. “In response to this changing customer behaviour, we are announcing changes to some of our branches including investment and refurbishment, increased automation, and a further move to cashless advice centres in five locations.”

Ulster Bank, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland, has reduced its workforce in the Republic from 3,472 to 2,337 over the past decade as it sought to rein in costs after the financial crisis. The lender closed 22 branches last year, reducing its network to 88.

Ulster Bank had 190 locations across the Republic before the crisis, including branches that carried the First Active brand, which was axed in 2010.

The bank has not ruled out compulsory redundancies if it does not reach its target on a voluntary basis.

"We acknowledge that Ulster Bank has given commitments to the FSU [Financial Services Union] that redundancies will only be sought after the technology upgrade programme, and associated measures, reduces the workload in branches," said Gareth Murphy, a senior industrial relations official at the FSU.

“However, even at present staffing levels, especially in the branch network, the situation is already critical and so we are calling on the bank to reduce the number of redundancies it will seek.”

The move comes months after Ulster Bank signalled that 200 staff working on resolving the tracker-mortgage scandal are at risk of losing their jobs once a line is drawn under the matter.

Addressing the Oireachtas finance committee on February 1st, Ulster Bank chief financial officer Paul Stanley said "a number of those staff were at risk already of redundancy". But they had been retained to help deal with the overcharging controversy, which boosted the bank's income by up to €120 million over a decade.

Some of the employees face redundancy at the end of the process, while others may work on “other issues” in the group, said Mr Stanley at the time.

Last week Mr Stanley was named as interim chief executive as Gerry Mallon began gardening leave after handing in his notice in January to join Tesco Bank in the UK. RBS's planned appointment of group executive Jane Howard to the top job at Ulster Bank is going through regulatory approvals.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times