Banking sector hears of branch closure concerns during Stormont roundtable talks

FSU general secretary, John O'Connell.

A MEETING at Stormont this week with representatives of the north's banking system has been described as an important step toward more engagement with the sector.

The roundtable discussion, hosted by Finance Minister Conor Murphy, was attended by consumer representatives, business representative groups and the Financial Services Union (FSU).

While none of the main banks attended the meeting, the sector was represented by the banking trade association, UK Finance.

The roundtable followed a significant year for the north's bank branch network, with three of the biggest lender closing a total of 28 branches.

The FSU's general secretary, John O'Connell, described the meeting as “an important initiative”.

He said the union was now looking forward to “further constructive engagement with relevant stakeholders in the banking sector”.

“The pace of change in the banking sector is rapid and is to an extent overwhelming for some. The closure of Bank Branches has led to what was once a stable fabric of local communities disappearing overnight,” said the union boss.

“It will be a shame if the legacy of the pandemic was to leave us without a viable banking infrastructure.

“The Banks need to understand that involving its stakeholders and placing the needs of staff, customers, and society at the centre of its decision-making process can transform and increase trust levels in the sector.

“There needs to be a better balance between the interests of the shareholder and the interests of other stakeholders.”

Speaking after the meeting, Finance Minister Conor Murphy said: “As we move out of the pandemic, it is more important than ever before that all key players fully recognise the impact the changing nature of the industry has on local communities, businesses, and staff – and in particular the increasing shift toward digital banking.

“While my department does not have any legislative authority in relation to banking, I remain committed to working with key stakeholders here and with the authorities in London to meet the needs of our staff, citizens and businesses - as we deal with the real issues facing us today and in the future.”

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