Concerns raised as local bank set to shut

Ulster Bank, Ballyclare. Pic by Google.
Ulster Bank, Ballyclare. Pic by Google.

Ulster Bank has confirmed its Ballyclare branch is set to close next Spring.

Announcing the closure, an Ulster Bank spokesperson said: “We have taken the difficult decision to close the Ulster Bank Ballyclare branch on May 22 2018.

“We provide our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – customers can choose from a range of digital, face-to-face and local options.

“The way people bank with us has changed radically over the last few years: since 2014, the number of customers using branches across the UK has fallen by 40 per cent. During the same period mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent.

“We are communicating with our customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable customers and regular branch users.”

The spokesperson added: “We have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months; this has been done so that we can ensure our customers have enough time to consider the right banking options for them and to give us time to support them one-to-one during the transition.

“We know that not all of our customers are comfortable or familiar with using online or mobile banking, so we have created a new specialist taskforce of Ulster Bank TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills until the branch closes.

“We are following the Access to Banking Standard and we have made our decision after careful consideration of a wide range of factors including changes in customer usage of the branch over a long period of time; how often customers are using the branch and the types of transactions they undertake; the number of customers who only bank via the branch; and the other ways our customers can bank locally.

“Our nearest branch, Glengormley, is 6.5 miles away.”

Commenting on the closure, South Antrim DUP MLA, Pam Cameron said: “I am deeply concerned to hear that Ulster Bank are to close their Ballyclare branch. It is a vital lifeline to many older and vulnerable customers.”

Cllr David Arthurs described the move as a “blow for the town.”

Speaking to the Times, the UUP representative said: “I am really disappointed to hear that the Ulster Bank branch on Main Street is to close.

“A lot of residents and businesses in the town use the bank and it will be an inconvenience for them to relocate their banking to our nearest branches in Glengormley or Carrickfergus.

“This is another building which is being vacated in the town and it now leaves Ballyclare with only one bank.”

Ulster Unionist Finance Spokesperson, South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken OBE said: “I have already contacted Ulster Bank requesting an urgent meeting and asking them to reconsider this decision.

“Whilst I acknowledge banking has changed over recent years, adapting to demands for improved digital services doesn’t have to happen in correlation with a major reduction in front-line customer facing services. Unfortunately, it is an excuse that has increasingly been used in an attempt to justify the closure of bank premises right across Northern Ireland.

“The reality is these closures will make everyday banking much more difficult, especially for local businesses and people who have limited access to online services. Indeed, the simple reality is that not everything can be done online. The Ulster Bank have also been plagued with repeated IT and online security glitches over recent years so I really question the wisdom of shutting these physical branches.”