First Trust Bank, part of the AIB Group, is set to shutter 15 branches across the north of Ireland in 2017 in response to customers’ increasing adoption of digital banking services.

The bank said that it would extend its existing voluntary severance programme to employees affected by the change.

First Trust Bank head Des Moore said: “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.”

“Since 2010 we have seen almost a 40% decline in branch usage coupled with a 117% increase in mobile transactions over the past two years and we have had to make the difficult decision to close a number of branches.”

At the same time, the bank has also announced a £10m investment strategy for personal and business customers, which includes setting up of five new business centres.

“For our business customers, we are also creating, in addition to Belfast, five new specialist business centres across Northern Ireland – in our Ballymena, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Derry/Londonderry and Newry branches – to bring our business banking teams, relationship managers and customers closer together,” Moore said.

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Simultaneously, the bank also struck a partnership with the Post Office to allow customers carry out banking transactions through the 500 Post Offices across Northern Ireland.

“Customers are turning to online, telephone and mobile banking and it is essential that we respond. As a result, our transformation programme focuses on building a sustainable business model which allows us to support our customers and the wider Northern Ireland economy in the long term,” Moore noted.