The head of the Financial Services Union (FSU) said it will oppose any further branch closures across Ireland as a survey by leading consumer affairs publication Which showed “at least” 2,961 branches were shut in Britain in the past four years.
“The closure of a branch can have a devastating impact. Research from the UK indicates very negative consequence for lending to small business when a local branch closes,” said FSU general secretary Gareth Murphy. “Our view is that, while online and digital banking is growing, consumers want this built on a physical branch network where they can talk to experienced staff, rooted in their communities.”
And referring to Bank of Ireland, Mr Murphy said: “Interestingly, one major bank has recently reversed planned changes to the services offered in local branches. It is clear that customer demand is aligned with our union’s position. Branch networks are a fundamental part of banking.”
The FSU “will oppose any further contraction of the branch network”, he said.
The union’s own tracking survey suggests the main Dublin-based banking groups that survived the banking crash between them closed at least 129 branches in the Republic in the past seven years.
In the North, AIB’s First Trust and Bank of Ireland have shrunk their branch numbers.
However, with the closure of Danske — formerly National Irish Bank — Irish Nationwide, and Halifax-Bank of Scotland in the Republic, the number of branch closures is significantly higher.
The FSU has around 14,000 members across Ireland and some in Britain, down from a peak of 23,000 before the onset of the banking crisis.
In Britain, the Which survey shows banks and building societies have closed down, or plan to close down, a total of 757 branches in 2018 and January 2019.
It said RBS will be shutting 476 branches this year and next January. Lloyds Banking Group, made up of Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland, will shut 131 branches.