After an increasing number of local bank branches being announced to be closed in Ireland, it has many customers asking if this is simply the result of the lockdowns from the Covid-19 pandemic or is it the banks own doing in order to push for online banking operations to take over.
The Bank of Ireland has claimed that the branches being closed had very little foot traffic and weren’t being useful to the area. The FSU responded by asking for specific numbers, after suggesting one of the closing banks attracted around 220 people an hour. Similar to this report the union has also claimed that many of the other branches are similar in popularity and a lack of foot traffic is not the reason they are being closed down. The Bank of Ireland has so far decided to close down a third of its network across the country. The FSU has discouraged other large banks in Ireland, such as AIB, from following in the Bank of Ireland’s footsteps. After the large backlash the Bank of Ireland has been receiving, the union believes other banks are not going to be as likely to close down small branches as well.
Some are not as discouraged by these changes and embrace the closures as being due to consumer preference for online banking. Many look forward to most of the banking services being absorbed by post offices, which would have a positive impact on the post office networks. However, while the banks are blaming Covid-19 and the lockdowns for the branch shutdowns, many are looking at the banks themselves for the reasons for the closures.
Many banks have made changes that limit services and operating hours for the branches, which can be viewed as an intentional push for customers to adjust to online banking. Not all banking customers having fully committed to online banking and most of the closing branches have more foot traffic than would be expected. The people most affected by this push will be retirees who do not use or trust online services and that live in small towns with very few banks.
This leaves many to wonder if businesses are more ready for a mostly virtual world than their consumers. How will the closing of the branches impact the future of the Bank of Ireland, and are we truly moving into a world without banks?