AIB has reversed its decision to convert 70 branches to cashless facilities after a massive backlash.
t said it made the decision to stop accepting cash at so many branches and pull ATMs out of those branches in light of what it described as customer and public uneasiness over the switchover.
There has been a dramatic increase in the use of digital banking services and a decline in branch visits and cash usage.
Over the past five years, there has been a 36 percent drop in cash withdrawals from ATMs and a 50 percent drop in the use of checks.
AIB also saw a nearly 50 percent drop in in-store over-the-counter transactions, while mobile and online payments grew 85 percent over the same period.
“Against the backdrop of this evolving banking environment and an opportunity to expand its longstanding relationship with An Post, AIB made the decision to remove cash services from 70 of its branches.
“However, given the discomfort this has caused to customers and the public, AIB has decided not to go ahead with the proposed changes to its banking services,” the bank said.
The move means an embarrassing relegation for AIB boss Colin Hunt.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe welcomed the turnaround.
It comes a day after Taoiseach Micheál Martin sought a meeting with Mr Hunt after urging the bank to reconsider its decision to remove cash facilities at branches across the country.
And the central bank had joined Mr Martin in angering the AIB over its plans to refuse cash transactions at nearly half its branches.
The central bank said vulnerable customers should have full access to basic banking services.
AIB plans to add another 70 to the 22 branches that have already gone cashless, and is removing ATMs in the 70 branches.
The Taoiseach has taken the unprecedented step of convening the CEO of the AIB to discuss the move to downgrade so many branches.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is understood not to have been informed by AIB of its intention to announce on Tuesday that it will go cashless at 70 of its 170 branches this fall.
The move has sparked a furious political backlash, with scores of TDs lining up to demand a reversal of the decision.
The Central Bank of Ireland has stated that the development is a commercial decision for the Board of AIB.
But it added it “expects all regulated entities, including banks, to ensure the impact of their decisions is carefully considered and with a consumer-centric approach.”
The regulator said banks should assess the impact of any decision or plan on their entire customer base, including vulnerable customers, and ensure any changes to branches are properly implemented.
“The central bank expects banks to provide vulnerable customers with the necessary support to ensure that those customers retain full access to basic banking services, including elsewhere.”
AIB had announced it would expand its relationship with An Post, where more cash and check services will be available.
But Green Party Minister Ossian Smyth has described the AIB’s plan to make 70 branches cashless as a “community banking opportunity” for post offices and credit unions across the country.
“I think it’s important that people in rural areas have access to banking. I am pleased to see that it will continue to be possible to deposit cash or withdraw cash from a post office to your AIB account and I think the Bank of Ireland will follow the same approach,” he said today to Morning Ireland by RTÉ.
“I would like to see the rural post office network strengthened and with that in mind we have announced a special subsidy to all postmasters to ensure all post offices remain operational.
“And we were looking at ways to strengthen the post office, to offer more services through the post office, and I think that might be what would make them permanent.”
Mr Smyth said it was “regrettable” that this decision was taken by AIB before the Consumer Banking Review was released.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/banking/aib-climbs-down-over-plans-to-make-70-branches-cashless-facilities-41860100.html AIB climbs above plans to make 70 branches cashless