THE First Trust Bank has confirmed that as part of its ongoing restructuring programme four branches will close on a phased basis by the end of November 2013 across Northern Ireland and the Ballynahinch branch will close on 4 October.
Rowallene Down District Council Councillor Billy Walker has expressed his frustration at the closure and said: “This is a blow to Ballynahinch. It will affect all sectors of the community, some more than others.[caption id="attachment_40551" align="alignleft" width="390"] Rowallene Councillor Billy Walker is concerned at the proposed closure of the Ballynahinch First Trust Bank branch on 4 October.[/caption]
“It is very unfair to ask the local customers to transfer to the branch in Lisburn. That is quite a distance away and not accessible. Many elderly people have never used ATM’s and were just used to calling into the branch to conduct their transactions. This will all be too confusing for them and they will not be likely to avail of internet banking very easily.
“And business people will also be affected as they will not be able to make a lodgement in the night safe after October. This poses a security issue for many who have substantial amounts of cash and need to dispose of it.
“It is all very unfair and I think they should be looking at their own fat cats first to trim down the costs and not impact so heavily on their loyal customers.
“I am fearful for the businesses in Ballynahinch and the area. we saw recently a bank close in Saintfield. It seems the rural areas are badly affected. I’m concerned too about the future of banking in Killyleagh too.”
Strangford MP Jim Shannon also voiced his concerns and said: “This is a very worrying situation for the people of Ballynahinch to lose an important part of their services. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the bank officials.”
Des Moore, Head of First Trust Customers and Distribution section, said: “Customers affected by the closures will receive a letter explaining that their accounts will be automatically transferred to the nearest alternative branch. This will not affect customers’ operation of their accounts as account numbers and sort codes will remain the same.
“A dedicated customer helpline will be provided, and staff will continue to meet customers’ individual banking needs and minimise any inconvenience from the transfer of their accounts.
“Like all retail organisations, we must constantly review our costs to move forward as a sustainable organisation.
“As customer habits change and more choose to bank through online channels, we have seen a marked decline in branch usage, making some locations unsustainable. Our immediate focus will be to ensure that this change happens as seamlessly as possible for our customers.
“We continue to review how our customers do business with us, in order to adapt to their changing needs and we remain firmly focused on delivering an improved customer experience. The imminent launch of our fully transactional mobile banking app, marks the beginning of our multi-channel customer service improvement plans.”
Staff currently employed at the closing locations will be facilitated through voluntary severance or redeployment to alternative locations.”
The Bank’s union, the IBOA, has and will continue to be fully briefed throughout the process.