Ulster Bank to shut nine branches in Northern Ireland

Digital technology use by customers given by Ulster Bank as reason for closures

Ulster Bank: customers are using digital technology as opposed to doing their banking in branches. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Ulster Bank: customers are using digital technology as opposed to doing their banking in branches. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Ulster Bank has confirmed it is to close nine of its branches across Northern Ireland. The decision has been criticised as a “blow for staff, customers and the communities they serve” by the Financial Services Union.

Ulster Bank, which currently has a network of 64 branches in the North, said it had taken the decision to close the nine because more of its customers are using digital technology as opposed to doing their banking in branches.

Ulster Bank’s decision comes just three weeks after First Trust, which is part of AIB, also announced plans to axe 15 branches, half of its network in Northern Ireland, between June and August.

Ulster Bank intends to close its Antrim Road, Newtownbreda, Boucher Road, Woodstock Road branches in Belfast, Monkstown in Co Antrim and both Bangor and Kircubbin branches in Co Down. It will also close its branch in the village of Garvagh and its branch in the Millennium Forum in Co Derry.

According to the general secretary of the Financial Services Union a total of 24 branch closures have been announced in the first three months of 2017.

Larry Broderick said: “The Financial Services Union has been to the forefront in calling for a long-term strategy for banking and financial services in Northern Ireland. We urgently need to get financial institutions, customer representatives, business groups, politicians and our union working together on a strategy that looks forward five or 10 years and maps out what type of banking structure Northern Ireland requires.”

Unit restructuring

The union said that, in addition to the branch closures, Ulster Bank also intends to restructure its Mortgage Intermediary Unit which is likely to result in about nine job losses.  

Meanwhile, credit unions in the North have said they could “fill the void” that will be left by the bank branch closures.

The Irish League of Credit Unions said the branch closures will leave “vast swathes with no straightforward access to banking” in Northern Ireland.

There are nearly 100 local credit unions affiliated to the ILCU which have a total of 477,000 members – last year its assets base grew by 6 per cent to more than £1.3 billion – up £78 million year on year.

The organisation believes that rural areas will be especially hard hit by bank branch closures. “The ILCU has been very vocal in lobbying the Northern Ireland Assembly to enable us to expand our services. 

“In April last year the Credit Unions and Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 was passed that will allow credit unions to offer enhanced services to members and prospective members,” an ILCU spokesperson said.