Shock as First Trust announces closure of half of NI branches

February 27, 2017

Last week’s announcement by First Trust Bank that it is set to close half of its branches in Northern Ireland has prompted widespread concern with as many as 130 jobs at risk.

On Wednesday last the bank announced it was beginning a “reshaping and investment programme” involving the “consolidation of First Trust Bank’s branch network” with the closure of 15 of its 30 branches.

The Financial Service Union (FSU) said it had received assurances that there would be no compulsory redundancies. Des Moore, the head of First Trust, one of the so-called “big four” banks in Northern Ireland, said the closures had been a difficult decision and added that the bank will be “working hard to minimise the impact on the customers and staff concerned.”    Mr Moore added that the bank also plans to implement a £10 million investment strategy for personal and business customers, including five new business centres – one of which will be in Newry- and has agreed a partnership with the Post Office to enable customers to conduct their everyday banking transactions in Post Offices.

“Customers are turning to online, telephone and mobile banking and it is essential that we respond,” said Mr Moore.

“As a result, our transformation programme focuses on building a sustainable business model which allows us to support our customers and the wider Northern Ireland economy in the long term.”

Locally, branches in Warrenpoint, Armagh, Portadown and Banbridge are set to close in June, July and August respectively, joining 15 branches across Northern Ireland which are being axed.

Danny Kennedy, Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate for Newry & Armagh, described the news as a “bolt from the blue for both staff and customers alike, as well as the business community” , and he has vowed to contact First Trust Bank regarding the closure of its Armagh branch.

“It seems that although staff were aware a restructuring process was underway, no one expected the severity and suddenness of the Northern Ireland wide closures,” said Mr Kennedy.

“The first priority should be the welfare of the staff concerned. I will be contacting First Trust to find out exactly what their plans are for those directly affected and I will work with other local representatives, Trade Unions and staff representatives to seek to minimise the impact of this blow.

Armagh UUP Councillor Jim Speers said the move “shows a total disregard for customers and a community that relies on local banking.”

“We, as a family, have banked there for generations; supported them before it was even First Trust. To walk away from Armagh like this is unforgivable. The economic prosperity of a community ruined; hundreds will be affected by this, it’s simply unbelievable.”

His sentiments were echoed by fellow Councillor Sam Nicholson who said,

“This news will indeed be greeted with dismay by many people in Armagh and the surrounding area. As public representatives we are all trying to boost economic life in the City, so the closure of any bank will be a negative. My thoughts are with the bank staff and the customers at this time, and I will be supporting my party colleagues in their efforts to help minimise the impact of this announcement.”