The latest plan to close bank branches across the north is “a devastating blow to staff, business and communities”, a union has said.
The Financial Services Union (FSU) was reacting to Danske Bank’s announcement on Friday that it will close another four branches in Northern Ireland later this year.
Branches in Carrickfergus, Saintfield, Knock (east Belfast) and Shipquay Place in Derry city centre will close on June 7 2024, with all external bank machines also removed.
Danske Bank said the closures will not result in job losses.
The announcement comes one week after Danske Bank UK’s Belfast-based operation announced it made a profit before tax of £186 million during 2023.
The closures will leave the lender with 24 branches across the north.
It means Danske Bank (formerly Northern bank) will was have closed 59 branches in Northern Ireland since 2010.
Ulster Bank will also begin a programme to close 10 branches around the north from February 20, which will leave it with just 25 branches.
FSU general secretary John O’ Connell said over 30% of the northern branch network has disappeared since 2020.
“We are slowly seeing the demise of the banking branch structure in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“If this trend is allowed to continue, we will reach a situation where in-person banking will be obsolete and communities will be stripped of local banking facilities.”
The union has called on the Financial Conduct Authority to intervene to prevent further closures.
Mr O’Connell has also urged Stormont’s new finance minister Caoimhe Archibald to reconvene the banking forum set up by her predecessor Conor Murphy, to discuss the future of banking in the north.
“We would also call on all announced branch closures to be paused until this wider discussion takes place and a properly planned out approach is agreed among all stakeholders,” said the union official.
Danske Bank’s managing director of personal banking, Aisling Press, said the closures reflect the changing way its customers choose to do their banking.
“Many of our customers are now using alternative ways to bank with us, like through our digital solutions, banking on the phone or in the Post Office,” she said.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen a 25% increase in customer logins to our digital channels.
“We have to respond to these changes, and a key part of that is reviewing and adapting how we invest in our customer solutions for the future.
“This isn’t an easy decision to make, and we consider lots of factors including the customer impact of the closure and alternative services nearby.”