North Galway AIB branches under threat as part of cost-cutting programme
By Jacqueline Hogge
SPECULATION that rural branches of AIB could be the first to close as part of a restructuring programme at the state-owned bank is growing, following reports that up to 90 branches could be affected.
Four branches in North Galway are uncertain of their futures following the announcement that the bank is to extend the banking services it already offers customers through An Post.
The move is part of a cost- cutting exercise that will lead to a reduction in the number of branches nationwide.
It is understood further details of the programme were outlined to managers at a meeting on Tuesday, but a spokesperson for AIB said it was too early to say when the move would be implemented or how many branches would be affected.
There are currently 16 AIB branches throughout the county, with five in Galway city. Athenry, Ballinalsoe, Oranmore and Tuam all have a branch, but it is unclear if all four will survive the restructuring plans being put into effect over the coming months.
“A decision has yet to be taken regarding what branches will be affected,” the spokesperson told The Tuam Herald.
“However the numbers quoted in the media so far, which suggest up to 90 branches will close, is purely speculation.
“Our distribution network will be enhanced by the new An Post initiative and it will support us in making changes to our current branch footprint.
“Regrettably, this means that the number of branches will reduce as part of the move to lower costs. But through the use of mobile banks and new branch openings in selected areas, AIB will bring banking services to new locations.”
AIB customers can currently use the post office for cash lodgements, withdrawals, and credit card bill-paying services. This will be enhanced to include cheque lodgements and deposit account transactions, with the bank’s new strategy aimed at conducting all traditional retail banking services online.
Branch banking will be modified to deal primarily with business banking services, with staff affected by the closure of certain branches offered the opportunity to relocate.
Athenry’s Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins said she will be seeking clarification from AIB management on what branches will be affected by the move.
“The Athenry branch is very important to the town, both to the businesses and personal account holders who use it, and I will endeavour to do all I can to retain the bank in the town,” she said.
“The speculation surrounding the matter doesn’t help, so I will be calling for a meeting with AIB management to determine what branches are affected by this decision.”
Senator Higgins has been particularly vocal on the recent technical issues affecting Ulster Bank customers.
“I have been working very hard to have Ulster Bank waive their charges for customers until January 2013, and I will be presenting a cross-party petition of signatures to the bank this week,” she said.
“While I have a letter confirming that no one’s credit rating would be affected by what has happened, I have since discovered that some customers have received warning letters regarding missed loan repayments and direct debit payments.
“This fiasco is most disheartening but I would encourage anyone with concerns to get legal advice from a solicitor on the matter.”