Ireland’s largest agricultural lender, Bank of Ireland, has announced plans to close 103 branches across the island.
The move will see more than half its 28 branches in the North and a further 88 branches in the Republic close.
With around 40,000 agri-business customers on its books, AgriLand has sought out the answers to key questions farming customers will have at this time.
More AgriLand reaction and insight on this story:
Questions and answers
Is my local Bank of Ireland branch due to close?
Customers can find the full list of branches which are set to close here.
When will this take effect, and will I see any changes as a customer?
In Northern Ireland, planning will now commence in respect of the branch closures, which are expected to take place from June until the end of the year.
Bank of Ireland will write to customers at least 12 weeks before their branch’s proposed closure date.
The letter will include details of how customers can continue to access banking services with Bank of Ireland, any alternative arrangements in place, plus other support – for example, training on using online services.
However, customers won’t see any changes to their account. Even those whose accounts are based at the affected branches will retain their existing account number, ATM card, chequebook, etc.
In the Republic of Ireland, the branches will close from September 2021.
A spokesperson added: “Importantly, we’re making this change in a way that protects local access to physical banking for those who want it through a new partnership with An Post.
“We will still have 169 branches across ROI. And we will retain 13 in NI.”
Will I need to do anything to change branch?
Customers in both jurisdictions won’t need to take any action as accounts will automatically transfer to the next closest branch.
In Northern Ireland, the bank will give customers at least 12 weeks notice of their branch’s closure, while in the Republic, all affected branches will close in September.
There is no immediate change to day-to-day banking or any accounts, loans, mortgages with Bank of Ireland.
Branches in both jurisdictions will continue as normal until the closures take effect.
My nearest branch is now quite far away; what other ways will I be able to lodge checks or make deposits?
The bank has pledged to work with customers and communities to minimise the impact of branch closures.
Customers will be able to lodge and withdraw cash, cheque and coin at An Post in the Republic and the Post Offices in Northern Ireland.
The average distance to a local post office from a closing branch is less than half a kilometre in ROI and less than a mile in NI.
“No location will be left without access to financial services or cash facilities,” a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland arm of the bank said.
A key priority will be to offer support to ensure customers are fully aware of the alternative arrangements available, including mobile and online banking, and to maintain continuity of customer service.
“This will include the option for personal and business customers to use the Post Office for cash lodgements and withdrawals and make balance enquiries.
“There will also be enhanced services available for business customers via the Post Office which provide the main counter banking requirements for most businesses including cheque encashment, bulk cash lodgements and obtaining pre-ordered coin at nominated Post Office outlets.”
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland in the Republic added: “More than 95% of the transactions that take place at our closing locations will be able to be done at a local post office.”
I have a good relationship with my local agri-business manager – will this service be impacted?
A spokesperson said: “This service will not be impacted by these branch closures. Bank of Ireland is the largest lender (on a customer basis) to the agri sector, banking around 40,000 farming customers, as well as offering the largest share (52%) of all new lending to farmers in the Republic of Ireland.
Overall, the agriculture sector is seen as a key one in Bank of Ireland, and that will remain the case.
“We have a dedicated agri team who support over 1,000 farm visits a year along with a team of highly skilled agri lenders who understand the needs of our farming customers.”
What about if I need advice on a mortgage or about my personal banking?
Customers can complete the mortgage process to drawdown entirely online.
Mortgage advisors will remain available to take customer calls, and their contact details are available on the Bank of Ireland website.
Customers in the Republic can also call the bank on: 0818-365-365.
The bank also has ‘mobile advisors’ in the Republic that can meet customers at their home, business, or virtually to discuss their banking needs.
“This has become increasingly popular in recent years,” the spokesperson added.
How was the decision made on which branches will close?
Management said they had used a list of criteria to ensure continued access to cash services, particularly for vulnerable customers.
The criteria included the need for a broad geographic spread and at least one branch remaining in each county in NI, proximity (within a one-mile radius) of nearest branch or post office for customers of closing branches, reduced and reducing footfall and an increasingly digitised customer base.
How many job losses will result from the closures (in NI and ROI)? And how will these be decided?
Both divisions insisted compulsory redundancy would play no part in today’s announcement.
Approximately 120 staff are employed at the closing branches in NI and 320 in the Republic’s affected branches.
The bank will engage with staff in Northern Ireland to set out a range of options, including relocating to another branch, redeployment to a new role within the bank, or voluntary redundancy.
Staff in the Republic will be offered the same options as well as the option of transferring to the bank’s phone and online customer support service.