Another week. Another announcement from a Bank that it would be closing branches. This week it was the Bank of Ireland which wielded the cutting blade. It has decided that nine of its Northern Ireland branches need to be pruned. This will reduce its branch network here from 44 to 35, a twenty percent reduction. The closing branches apparently represent seven percent of the bank's business across Northern Ireland. Two of the branches facing closure are in Londonderry. The remaining branches are Ballyclare; Ballymoney; Carrickfergus; kilkeel; kilrea; Larne and Rathfriland.
I suppose I should declare an interest in this matter in that I do have an account with the Bank of Ireland although it is dormant.
Presumably the Bank of Ireland branches which are closing are the least profitable branches, but there are always going to be some offices which are less profitable than others. If one continues with a policy of closing the least profitable branches you end up with one branch. Is that what the Banks are aiming for? I suspect that it might be, They all want us to convert to Internet banking. They would like to kill off the cheque. They don't really want the small personal customer unless they can sell some product to him or her.
The closure of a rural bank branch is like the closure of a school or a post office. It hits at the very existence of the community. It reduces the independence and self sufficiency of the village or small town. In pure economic terms it may presently make sense for the Bank of Ireland and its ilk to close branches, but they are cutting away at what remains of their goodwill. It does seem rather inequitable that the steady branches should be closing because of the huge Bank losses engendered by the corporate divisions of our banks.