Ulster Bank closing ten branches across Northern Ireland by February 2015
Rachael Cray, Head of Money Affairs said: “The Consumer Council is disappointed that ten more Ulster Bank branches are scheduled for closure in February 2015. This announcement means by next February, Northern Ireland’s big four banks’ will have closed 77 branches in the last four years (31 per cent of the bank branch network).
“We are particularly concerned about the impact this Ulster Bank decision will have on its customers and businesses in the areas affected. The majority of the closing branches are in rural communities where Ulster Bank has been the only bank or is the last bank in town. Despite an increase in online banking, our research shows that bank customers still want access to local services with 68 per cent of consumers surveyed saying they had visited a bank branch at least once in the last month.
“Ulster Bank must be aware that many of its customers are not online or don’t have the confidence or ability to use telephone, online or smart phone banking. Prior to these closures in 2015, Ulster Bank must engage with affected customers to provide support and clearly communicate what the alternative banking options are. In the meantime, we would urge Ulster Bank customers affected by the closures to contact their bank directly with any concerns they may have.
“The Consumer Council believes there is a need for the NI Executive and the banking industry to consider a wider, more strategic approach to bank closures, rather than simply reacting to individual branch closures.We must consider how local communities, especially rural communities can be supported to access financial services and ensure large parts of Northern Ireland do not become ‘financially forgotten’.
Rachael concluded: “Bank customers who do not feel comfortable with telephone or online banking can visit the local post office or a different branch to lodge cash and cheques, to check balances and pay their bills. The Consumer Council also has factsheets for consumers and businesses in relation to bank branch closures, which outline alternative banking options. These are available to download from: www.consumercouncil.org.uk or call us on 0800 121 6022 or via Facebook or Twitter.”