Anger over First Trust Bank closure in Strabane

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Anger over First Trust Bank closure in Strabane thumbnailFirst Trust Bank on Main Street, Strabane, will close on July 28.

CUSTOMERS of the First Trust Bank in Strabane have reacted angrily to news that the local branch is to close.

The Main Street branch will shut down on July 28 as part of a major cost-cutting exercise announced late last Wednesday evening by the bank.

In all, a total of 15 branches will close across Northern Ireland. The move means that for local customers the nearest branch to interact with bank staff face-to-face will be in Londonderry.

It has been reported that there may be job losses within the affected bank branches but as yet there has been no firm indication on numbers as the bank moves into its "reshaping and investment programme".

The Strabane Weekly News spoke with several customers outside the bank a day after the closure was announced. Many said they were "angry" and "disappointed" by the decision.

Anne Gallagher, who has banked with First Trust "for as long as I can remember" was among those to speak out.

She said the bank's agreed partnership with the Post Office, which will enable customers to conduct their everyday banking transactions in any Post Office branch, is of little consolation for many.

"I've banked here all my life. I'm in every week and there was no mention of it when I was in last week. I'm gutted for the staff. It's them who I feel for most. They're so helpful and they know your situation," she said.

"It'll not be the same going to the Post Office or the Derry branch. I don't do online banking either but I'm going to stick with the bank. They've served me well for the last 20 years."

Another man admitted that he is considering changing banks and added: "It's a disgrace. There's no thought for customers or the staff based here. It's sad. It's another empty building for the town."

Announcing the planned closures, head of First Trust, Des Moore, said it had been a "difficult decision" but stressed that the programme is intended to ensure a sustainable future for the bank and its customers, addressing the considerable shift in customer behaviour and their changing needs. 

"Due to changing customer behaviours and trends and in particular the sizable shift from branch usage towards digital banking, First Trust Bank has undertaken an 18-month strategic review to plan how we best serve the needs of customers now and in the future.

"This included a review of all our customer service points including our branch network, with a view to reshaping for an efficient, effective and sustainable business," he said.

 "Since 2010 we have seen almost a 40 per cent decline in branch usage coupled with a 117 per cent increase in mobile transactions over the past two years and we have had to make the difficult decision to close a number of branches. We will be working hard to minimise the impact on the customers and staff concerned."

Mr Moore said the planned changes will be managed in line with the bank's regulatory commitments and in consultation with its Union, the Financial Services Union. The bank's existing voluntary severance programme will be extended to impacted staff.

The Consumer Council, Financial Services Union and the Federation of Small Businesses have also expressed concern over the closures.

General Secretary of the Financial Services Union, Larry Broderick, described the scale of First Trust Bank branch closures as "a serious blow for staff, customers and the Northern Ireland economy." He said staff are just as shocked as customers.

"While staff were aware of an ongoing restructuring plan at FTB the scale of closures announced today has come as a shock to staff.  Great teams in bank branches, many who have served their community for many years, now face the prospect closure and relocation. It is a major blow," he added.


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