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AIB says scrapped plan to turn 70 branches cashless was a 'genuine' future-proofing effort

The bank is appearing before a Committee to ‘clearly explain’ its now scrapped decision to turn 70 branches into cashless outlets.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 14th 2022, 4:55 PM

AIB HAS TOLD an Oireachtas Committee that its scrapped plan to turn 70 branches into cashless outlets was a “genuine effort to future-proof” its network.

Several high-ranking members of AIB are appearing before a Committee today to “clearly explain” its plan that would have removed cash and cheque facilities from 70 branches, meaning those services would not be available at counters or machines in the banks. 

Any ATMs outside the branches would have been removed and the banks would no longer carry coins, notes, cheques, foreign exchange or bank drafts on site.

Responding to questioning from TDs and Senators, AIB’s CEO Colin Hunt said he “did not anticipate the scale of the customer reaction”. 

He added that had he anticipated such a reaction, “the proposal would never have seen the light of day”.

‘Regret’

Hunt began his opening statement to the Committee by reiterating the bank’s “regret” and acknowledging the “alarm it caused”. 

He told the Committee that the way in which customers are managing their financial affairs are changing and that it is “incumbent on the bank to map out coherent strategies in response to those changes”.

He added that the original decision to remove cash in 70 branches was “based on a genuine effort to future-proof the viability of our branch network”.

It was also noted that customers would have continued to “to access cash services in their communities through our expanded partnership with An Post”.

Pandemic

In explaining AIB’s now scrapped plan, Hunt said: “The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the decline of cash usage and visits to bank branches and had triggered a dramatic increase in customers’ adoption of digital banking services.”

He pointed to a 35% reduction in the number of customer transactions completed in AIB branches.

Hunt added that “daily digital interactions increased to 2.9 million compared to 35,000 customer branch visits”.

“Against that backdrop,” said Hunt, “but determined to keep our branches open in the community, we proceeded to further develop our relationship with An Post.

“And we genuinely believed that the “AIB at An Post” model, together with our digital banking options, was sufficient to meet our customers’ cash needs and expectations,” said the AIB CEO.

However, Hunt acknowledged that “we were proven wrong in that belief and under-appreciated the huge value that customers continue to attach to the presence of a fully-serviced local branch”.

Bank of Ireland are set to appear before the committee later this evening and will tell TDs and Senators that they have seen a 54% decrease in in-branch transactions between 2017 and 2022.

In their opening statement, interim group CEO Gavin Kelly will say that this was behind the decision to close 88 branches around the country.

Kelly will add that a partnership with An Post has expanded access to local banking services, which include cash lodgement and withdrawl.

Changing Banking Ecosystem

While Hunt said that the “banking ecosystem is changing” and “consumers are moving in ever-growing numbers” to digital alternatives, he added that “in the midst of the transition, consumers continue to use cash”.

He described the customer-staff relationship as “the lifeblood of AIB’s business” and said the bank will “endeavour to provide the services that ensure this is protected… regardless of the radical changes occurring across the banking landscape”.

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