Bank of Ireland has announced it will close 103 branches across the island as the bank shifts to a digitally driven service.
The closures are part of a cost cutting initiative which will shut 15 of its 28 branches currently operating in Northern Ireland.
In August, the bank said it was aiming to cut 1,400 jobs from its UK and Ireland operations.
Francesca McDonagh, Bank of Ireland CEO, said that the bank had reached a ‘tipping point’ in customer preferences between online and offline banking.
“For many years, the trend to digital banking has been evident, with customers using branches less and less,” McDonagh said.
“Covid-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour, and we’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital banking over the past 12 months.”
The Dublin-based bank, which operates across Ireland and the UK, will also continue with its strategy of withdrawing from less profitable UK lending.
It said this would result in its UK loan book shrinking by around 10 per cent during 2021.
Face-to-face advice in short supply
Eoin Clarke, Managing Editor of Switcher.ie, believes the shrinking of Bank of Ireland’s branch network is inevitable but concerning for those who aren’t digitally savvy.
“If the shift to online banking continues, the reality is they (the customers) may end up with nowhere to turn for face-to-face help with financial matters, especially during the current times where those who can’t access their money online could feel abandoned by their bank.”
Second half salvages 2020 damage
Bank of Ireland limited its underlying 2020 loss to €374m after a return to profitability in the second half of the year.
An underlying €295m in the second half eased the Covid damage as lending and business income improved.
Its total income was 8 per cent lower than 2019, while a net interest income of €2.1bn signalled a 2 per cent drop from the previous year.
The bank cut its costs by 4 per cent in 2020, meaning it achieved its €1.7bn annual cost target a year earlier than scheduled.