Bank of Ireland to close 103 branches

Michelle Devane, PA
·4 min read

Bank of Ireland is to close 103 branches across the island of Ireland.

The bank is to shut 88 outlets in the Republic, reducing its network from 257 to 169, while in Northern Ireland the network will be reduced by 15 from 28 to 13.

It follows a deal with An Post to offer customers access to banking services at more than 900 locations.

Bank of Ireland said the majority of the branches that are closing are self-service locations which do not offer a counter service.

The closures come after Ulster Bank’s parent company, NatWest, last month announced that it was withdrawing Ulster Bank from the Irish market.

Bank of Ireland group chief executive Francesca McDonagh said: “Technology is evolving and customers are using branches less, year on year on year.

“Covid-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour and we’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital banking over the past 12 months.”

Ms McDonagh said Bank of Ireland has reached a “tipping point” between online and offline banking, with its mobile app the most popular way to bank. In contrast the number of people visiting branches has “sharply declined” and is now just over half of what it was in 2017.

“We know news like this can cause concern for some customers and for the communities that we serve,” she added.

“We’re not making these changes immediately – no branches will close in the next six months.

“That allows us to ensure the An Post partnership is up and running before any branches close, and gives us time to communicate fully with all our customers about every option available to them online, in a nearby BOI branch, or at a local post office.”

Speaking on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme, Ms McDonagh said there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the branch closures.

“Two hundred people, colleagues, are impacted,” she said.

“They have choices. If they want to work in another branch they can work in another part of the business and obviously new ways of working means people have more access to jobs in different locations.

“Or if they choose they can take voluntary redundancy but there is no compulsory element to the announcements we’re making today.”

Ms McDonagh said the closures will start in September.

“This isn’t a cost take out,” she said.

“This is about putting our resources in, investing, where our customers want to bank with us. Even before the pandemic, two years before the pandemic, the number of people visiting branches was down by a quarter.

“In the last 12 months it’s now gone down by a half and it’s over 60% down in the branches we’re closing, and in direct contrast we’ve seen massive pick-up in digital usage including really good take-up of our new mobile app.”

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Labour’s finance spokesman, Ged Nash, described Bank of Ireland’s plans as a “kick in the teeth” for thousands of loyal customers and staff, and called for a pause on branch closures during the pandemic.

“There is no doubt that Bank of Ireland is exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to drive down its costs,” he said.

“The bank’s ruthlessly opportunistic plans to cull 88 branches in towns across the state will have an even more severe and direct impact on the fabric of communities across the country than Ulster Bank’s recent announcement, given their extensive reach.

“This move has been on their agenda for some time and it was telling that the bank refused to share the terms of reference of the operational review which has provided the basis for this decision with the Financial Services Union, who represent the bulk of branch staff.”

Mr Nash added: “Last March, Bank of Ireland unilaterally closed over 100 branches without due statutory notice and many of those branches are now only partially reopened.

“They cannot be allowed to get away with an unparalleled branch closure frenzy of this magnitude with impunity.

“As a 16% shareholder in the bank, the Minister for Finance must play a public interest role along with the Central Bank to pause bank branch closures for now and to fully interrogate Bank of Ireland’s decision and hold bank management to account.”