The Financial Services Union, which represents banks staff, said there is no sign of a new wave of bank branch closures as banking company Santander said it plans to shut almost a fifth of its branches in Britain and the North by early summer.
The Santander closures involve 140 of 754 branches, including Ballymoney, Co Antrim, and a branch in east Belfast, and were necessary because it says that the rise of online banking has cut its branch business by 23% in the past three years.
A Financial Services Union spokesman said it was not inevitable that the pace of branch closures would quicken and there was no sign of any new wave of bank closures on the horizon in Ireland. The union has 14,000 members in Ireland and some in the UK but doesn’t have members at Santander.
The large branch network of Spain’s Santander in the UK is based on the acquisitions of Alliance & Leicester over 10 years ago and the earlier acquisition of Abbey National which Bank of Ireland had at one time wanted to acquire.
Linda Rolph, general secretary of the Advance union, which represents Santander workers, said the union was not resisting the changes. “Santander was one of the last to move to cut branches. We’re not opposing because the rationale is clear. Staff thought it was a matter of time before some branches closed,” she said.
In the UK, a survey by Which last year estimated banks and building societies had closed or had plans to close 757 branches up to January. A Financial Services Union survey suggested 129 branches in Ireland were shut in the past seven years. In the North, AIB’s First Trust and Bank of Ireland have shrunk their branch numbers.
Additional reporting Reuters