20 July 2021
By Elaine Murphy
AIB to close 6 Cork branches, but it can hardly have been unexpected after COVID19 and the ongoing march to a cashless society #TapAndPay
When was the last time you were in your bank branch? I would have to guesstimate 3 years ago when I needed to buy a bank draft for a new car from a dealership (incidentally AIB created this need to visit the branch because their debit card had a limit of less than €1000 per day on debit card transactions). The only other times I visit a branch are about once every other year to lodge my pre-bagged accumulation of random coins from a jar. Frankly, with online banking and credit and debit cards what personal customer needs to visit a branch much? This is a good thing in terms of time saving. Even if you need cash you can use an ATM.
Business customers on the other hand do need to visit a branch daily to lodge cash, so today’s news will be difficult for many. Plus – as we always hear at these times – many elderly people prefer face to face dealings. There are still some people who have bank books and have held out on cards.
Business is designed to make money. Labour and buildings are expensive, so every business must constantly review its operations.
Which 6 Cork branches will close?
College Rd, Blackrock Rd (Ballintemple), Little Island, Douglas Court, Ballyphehane (Turners Cross), North Main Street in Cork City Centre, but AIB emphasises that it retains 170 branches nationwide, which is the largest branch network in the country.
Customer digital banking trends
AIB has now “completed a detailed strategic review due to changes in how customers interact with banks, a trend that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic”. AIB will be closing 5 branches in Cork although it labels the change as “amalgamation”, rather than closures, because the accounts in each branch will be transferred to a nearby branch. With one national exception, the average distance to a receiving branch is 2.2km
A statement from AIB today said
“The continued shift from branch usage to digital banking has been an industry-wide trend in recent
years – accelerated dramatically due to the Covid-19 pandemic as people adapted even more to
online platforms. Customers are now interacting with our digital app more than 1.54 million times a
day, compared with 35,000 daily branch visits. In 2019, customers visited branches on average
50,000 times a day. Customers have increased their use of digital wallets in the first half of 2021.
Volumes were up by 85% compared to H1 2020″
“These changes, and some service overlaps, mean the bank is merging a number of branches. The
amalgamation of these branches will happen on a phased basis, commencing in September 2021
and to be completed by December 2021. “
As with previous branch re-organisations, there will be no compulsory redundancies. The bank will communicate details to our customers to ensure a smooth transition. Customers do not need to take any action.
An Post partnership extension
AIB provides customers with access to cash services in over 900 An Post offices across the country. There, our customers are able to make cash withdrawals and lodgements using their AIB card, six days a week. AIB is also in the process of extending its partnership with An Post.
Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (TD for Cork South Central) said
“AIB have attempted to justify this announcement based on a recent fall in branch visits.
“A decline in branch visits however is hardly surprising, given our community has had its movements significantly restricted in response to a public health emergency. The closures are a knee-jerk reaction that cannot be justified.
“Of course, it is true that banking is changing. However many, particularly elderly people, still rely heavily on face to face service in their local branch. This is for a number of reasons, including security and trust in face to face interactions at their branch, as well as difficulties accessing electronic devices or internet for online banking.
“It would be unfair for these branches to close due to lack of footfall, at a time where elderly people were being advised by health professionals to shield and isolate to protect themselves against Covid-19.
“I have written to AIB, expressing my concern at the significant impact these branch closures will have on the communities affected. It is the wrong decision at the worst possible time, with serious consequences for customers and staff.
“AIB should reverse this decision immediately and commit to a moratorium on branch closures until the Covid-19 pandemic ends. “