A Donegal TD says Bank of Ireland have confirmed to him that four of their branches in Bundoran, Bunbeg, Glenties and Moville will become automated.
Deputy Pearse Doherty told the Donegal Democrat that as well as those branches becoming automated, he understands that over-the-counter cash services at eight other branches in the county are to be scaled back from a full service three times a week, to a part time service Monday to Friday.
Commenting on the Bank of Ireland move, Deputy Doherty said that the move represents “yet another blow to the county”, adding that the Government continues to stand idly by while rural communities suffer.
“Today’s announcement from Bank of Ireland that it is to remove over-the-counter cash services from its branches at Bunbeg, Bundoran, Glenties and Moville is very disappointing.” and it will come as a major blow to customers of those branches,” stated Deputy Doherty.
He added: “The bank has confirmed that it shall no longer offer over-the-counter cash lodgements or over-the-counter cash withdrawals, as well as no longer providing currency exchange or coin exchange at these four bank branches.
“Bank of Ireland has claimed that as part of these plans, these four branches will now be converted into advice and self-service branches only.”
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland told the Democrat there will be staff in those branches to assist people using automated banking systems. "There will be staff there to assist, same as today," the spokesperson said, adding, "customers who need coin or foreign exchange who will be impacted".
Hotelier Brian McEniff told the Donegal Democrat that following the closure of the Allied Irish Bank branch in the town the change to an automated system for Bank of Ireland would be a “backward step” for the tourist town of Bundoran.
“This could turn into a huge problem for tourists and businesses in busy towns like Bundoran and elsewhere,” the Bundoran hotelier said.
“We have already lost AIB in Bundoran, it would be a huge concern as a businessman in the town if this was to happen in terms of Bank of Ireland.
“During the summer weeks we have anything between 6,000 and 8,000 visitors here in peak season and that increases at weekends. I think the town needs a bank with staff at the counter. I appreciate much can be done using automated systems, but this would be a concern.”
“I’m very worried what impact it may have on us and indeed on the other towns mentioned,” the All Ireland winning manager added.
Bank of Ireland response
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland said “there will be staff there in those four branches (Bundoran, Bunbeg, Moville and Glenties).
“It’s not fair to suggest that it will be people dealing with automated banking systems, there will be staff there to assist, same as today.
“There will be a small number of customers who need coin or foreign exchange who will be impacted, those services will no longer be provided. Those services will be provided in a neighbouring branch if required.”
In a more detailed statement released a short time ago, Bank of Ireland say they are making the changes in response to a "consistent decrease in counter activity".
Their statement in full is as follows: "Our customers are rapidly changing the way they bank, just as they are changing the way they buy goods or services online and communicate with each other. Today, only 3% of our customers’ total transactions are conducted over the counter – 97% of all transactions take place through other channels. When we look at trends over time within a branch’s catchment area and see a consistent decrease in counter activity, we reconfigure the branch to support how our customers are using it.
"Our branches in Bunbeg, Bundoran, Glenties and Moville are adopting the ‘Advice & Self Service’ model, where staff will move from behind the counter onto the floor. Customers will continue to be provided with a comprehensive range of products and services, the ability to lodge and withdraw cash from easy to use self-service devices and access to online and 365 phone services. This will also enable greater availability of branch staff to provide personalised financial and banking advice.
"While foreign currency exchange and coin transaction services will no longer be available in the branches, cash services are available through the self-service options inbranch. The use of credit and debit card and contactless banking continues to grow, with demand for cheques, foreign currency and coin services continuing to significantly reduce.
"This change has been very successful in a growing number of our branches, where we have seen an increase in transactions happening in branch through the enhanced availability of self-service options.
"Implementation of these changes will be taking place on a phased basis with a two-month period for comprehensive customer notification."