Ulster bank chief warns of closures

Published Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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The head of Ulster Bank has told a Westminster inquiry that there could be future branch closures because of the shift towards online banking.

Ulster bank chief warns of closures
A general view of the Ulster bank headquarters in Belfast. (© PA)

The probe is looking at how local banks are run and how they provide finance to businesses.

Ulster Bank Chief Executive Jim Brown appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday afternoon, alongside Head of Ulster Bank NI Ellvena Graham.

He told the committee that customer behaviour is "changing rapidly" and that more people are using online banking.

"There has been a huge shift over a very short period of time to that area, and it's not just in terms of transactions, it's customers opening accounts and so on," he said.

"There has been some changes to the branch network as the result of that - some closures - and I expect, over time, there will be more, but it is really driven by customer demand."

Last year Ulster Bank closed 22 branches and sub-offices on the island of Ireland and said more could follow.

The bank's parent company RBS is carrying out a review of its business, with the outcome expected within weeks.

Mr Brown said he didn't have any "specific plans" for any redundancies in Northern Ireland.

"We are subject to a review that is being conducted as a result of a request from the Treasury as part of the bad bank review that was done earlier into coming up with a viable and sustainable Ulster Bank and that review will be concluded sometime over the next months," he said.

"But we do not have any plans for any redundancies at this stage."

Des Moore, head of First Trust in Northern Ireland also gave evidence.

He echoed Mr Brown's view that there has been a shift to online banking but said there was no desire to close branches as "difficult decisions" had already been implemented.

The bank has closed 11 branches and four sub offices over the last four years.

The committee has previously heard from Danske Bank and Bank of Ireland.

© UTV News
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3 Comments
Larry in Belfast wrote (176 days ago):
Isn't it obvious that the banks are heading and pushing for the Bible predicted cashless society. Slowly but surely they are pushing everyone online until eventually when our Lord Jesus raptures his Church, they will not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast which will be the European banking system.
Banbridge in Banbridge wrote (176 days ago):
The decisons to close banks and other institutions such as police stations in small towns and villages is driving the heart out of those communities. Whilst these decisions are being made on business grounds the reality is that many rural folk feel abandoned and let down. Small towns are becoming like ghost towns. You nearly expect to see tumbleweed blowing down the streets
Observer in Online wrote (176 days ago):
I think all we will have in a few years will be "virtual banks". Is that progress? I'm not sure, but I certainly won't miss standing in a queue of 10 people while one cashier works, another 4 positions have a closed sign, and the other bank employees sit ignoring the customers...
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BRIAN ROWAN
The pictures from Stormont this week showed us how politics here still walks in and out of step.
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