AIB has confirmed it will not go ahead with its plan to remove cash services from 70 branches and said it “recognizes the discomfort felt by customers and the public this has caused”.
na statement the bank said:
“In recent years, the use of digital banking services has increased dramatically and the number of branch visits and cash usage has decreased. In AIB’s case, there are 2.9 million daily digital interactions compared to 35,000 customer store visits.
“In the last five years, there has been a 36% drop in ATM cash withdrawals and a 50% drop in the use of checks. AIB also saw a nearly 50% drop in in-store over-the-counter transactions, while mobile and online payments are up 85% 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 continues to maintain its 170-strong branch network in its entirety and will continue to offer banking services through its relationship with at An Post at its 920 post offices nationwide.”
The majority state-owned bank has been in the eye of an unprecedented political storm since the bank bailouts more than a decade ago, after Micheál Martin called for a meeting with top executives at the financial institution and publicly told them to “reconsider” the move.
Mr Donohoe and the rest of the coalition have been left in the dark about the bank’s controversial downgrade of its branches, which they say was due to falling demand for cash services.
Mr Martin urged the bank to “consider and think about” the plans during a government visit to Singapore yesterday and was due to host top bank executives for a meeting next week.
This morning Social Protection Secretary Heather Humphreys called on the AIB to halt the decision to go cashless at 70 branches nationwide.
Ms Humphreys said rural communities across the country are “rightly upset” by the AIB plan.
The minister accused the bank of a “complete disregard” for rural communities and insisted they should have been consulted.
“At the very least, AIB should defer that decision until the comprehensive retail banking review is completed later this year,” she said at an event in Donegal.
“We know that more and more people are using cards and moving away from cash, but small businesses and older people in particular depend on these services.
“The Retail Banking Review looks at the entire retail banking landscape in Ireland, including the business model, consumer choices and expected trends over the coming decade.
“I think it would make sense for AIB to defer this decision and await the outcome of this review,” the minister said.
Green Party Minister Ossian Smyth 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.
“I want to see strong community banking across Ireland, whether that’s through credit unions or post offices or through any form of community banking, however it works,” he said.
“I want local people to have access to a place to deposit cash or withdraw cash.”
AIB was called to a meeting with the Taoiseach next week, where it was told plans to remove cash from 70 of its branches would be postponed at a showdown meeting next week.
That Irish Independent may reveal that Treasury Secretary Paschal Donohoe was not informed by AIB of its intention to announce on Tuesday that it will make 70 of its 170 branches cashless this fall – a move that has sparked a furious political backlash.
“There is a sizeable group of people who need this facility and I believe AIB and the banks should take note of that,” said Mr. Martin.
The Taoiseach was to urge them to postpone plans in order to move forward as quickly as they had intended. AIB said this week that the branch changes would take place in September and October.
A coalition source said the bank was moving “too quickly”, while another said it was “bad form on the part of AIB to do so on a (Dáil) pause without prior notice or a proper communications plan”.
There is a sizeable group of people who need this facility and I believe AIB and the banks should take note of this
Mr Donohoe, who has not been given any notice of the move, has asked the Treasury Department to look into the matter with AIB.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Seán Fleming has told the Fianna Fáil faction that AIB leader Colin Hunt has been briefed on the government’s anger at the decision.
“I spoke directly to Minister Donohoe regarding AIB. The department was in direct contact with Colin Hunt today and expressed their anger at her announcement.
“AIB needs to urgently contact the department on this matter. I will keep you updated at this point,” Mr Fleming told his party colleagues in a WhatsApp message.
It comes amid a growing outcry from backbenchers, with 40 members of Parliament’s Fianna Fáil party now backing a call by Cork East TD James O’Connor to seek an emergency meeting with Mr Donohoe over AIB’s plans.
In a letter to TDs and Senators, Mr O’Connor said he didn’t think it was acceptable “that we, as a party, would allow the banks to go unchallenged in their recent efforts to restrict community banking services.”
Leitrim GAA club Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins also hit out at the move, urging the GAA to end its sponsorship with the bank if the decision is not reversed.
Meanwhile, the powerful Oireachtas Finance Committee has asked AIB CEO Colin Hunt to appear before him to explain his decision to downgrade the branches.
dr Hunt was Brian Cowen’s economic adviser.
The committee’s chairman, John McGuinness, said he was outraged by the move, which was taken without warning or concern for the impact on citizens.
“We need to hold this bank accountable,” he said.
Fianna Fáil TD described the bank’s decision as “another attack on rural Ireland”. He said TDs from all political parties were “outraged” and “something must be done to stop this”.
“We will also be in touch with the central bank and the minister [Paschal Donohoe]’ Mr McGuinness told RTÉ driving time. He said the finance minister had to “have a say” on the matter because of the government’s “ownership” in the bank.
In a statement, the AIB said it was aware of the Taoiseach’s comments and was “pleased to be in touch”.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/banking/aib-says-it-will-not-proceed-with-plans-to-remove-cash-services-from-70-branches-in-dramatic-u-turn-41859301.html AIB says it will not go ahead with plans to remove cash services from 70 branches in a dramatic about-face