Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Finance
93. To ask the Minister for Finance if he or his officials have held meetings with a bank (details supplied) in relation to the recent announcement of 88 branch closures; if so, when these meetings occurred; and if he asked for and received assurances from the bank that there is a viable post office within 500 metres of a branch the bank plans to close as mentioned in his response to the bank announcement. [17940/21]
96. To ask the Minister for Finance if he will request the regulator of the Central Bank to defer the closure of bank branches (details supplied) for the duration of Covid-19; if he will request that the bank provide a financial and impact statement for the branches earmarked for closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18013/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 96 together.
As the Deputy may be aware, as Minister for Finance, I have no role in the commercial decisions made by any bank in the State. This includes banks in which the State has a shareholding.
Decisions in this regard, including the management of branch networks, are the sole responsibility of the board and management of the banks, which must be run on an independent and commercial basis. The independence of banks in which the State has a shareholding is protected by Relationship Frameworks which are legally binding documents that cannot be changed unilaterally. These frameworks, which are publicly available, were insisted upon by the European Commission to protect competition in the Irish market. The Bank of Ireland Relationship Framework can be found at the following link:
Notwithstanding this, Bank of Ireland provided me with a briefing in advance which was consistent with its announcement on the matter on 1stMarch.
Some of the key points contained in the announcement were:
- The decision to close these branches is in response to changing customer behaviour with a significant acceleration in digital banking.
- The branches closing are predominately self-service locations which do not offer a counter service.
- To preserve local access to physical banking for those who want it, the bank has agreed a new partnership with An Post which will allow personal and business customers use their local post office for a range of banking services – including to withdraw cash and make cash and cheque lodgements – at no additional cost. The closing Bank of Ireland branches all have a post office within, on average, less than 500 meters.
- The bank confirmed that the new partnership with An Post will be available to all Bank of Ireland customers before any branch closes.
- Furthermore, the bank stated that there will be no closures for six months.
On staff, the bank commented that it will be working closely with all colleagues at these branches and will be setting out a range of options which include relocating to a different branch, moving to a new role in the bank, or voluntary redundancy for those who choose it.
The full Bank of Ireland announcement on the matter can be found at the following link: