Ulster Bank to close 20 branches in latest round of cutbacks
Staff redundancy bills stymied plans for 40 office closures
ULSTER Bank will close 10 branches in the Republic this year – and will also shut 10 branches in the North.
The exact locations have not been revealed, but it is understood that most will be smaller branches, known as sub-offices.
The British-owned bank has 147 branches in the Republic and 90 in the North.
The closures were first signalled in the Irish Independent last year.
The move comes as all the major banks, with the exception of Bank of Ireland, close retail outlets.
AIB has already closed 51 branches, with another 16 to go this year. It will end up with 200.
Danske Bank, which was previously called National Irish Bank, closed its 27-branch network at the end of last year.
Permanent TSB closed 16 branches, changed two into self-service branches and amalgamated two more. It has 72 full branches left and said yesterday it has no further plans to close any more.
The withdrawal of Halifax/Bank of Scotland resulted in the loss of 44 bank branches in 2010.
Ulster Bank had been expected to close up to 40 branches but it is understood the cost of redundancies has stymied that plan. It is currently laying off 950 workers, many of them from the branch network.
Closure and lay-off plans were delayed when the collapse of Ulster's information technology systems paralysed its operations during the summer.
In a statement, Ulster said: "We continue to keep our branch network under review to ensure that we are operating in the correct locations for our customers.
"As part of this review, we will be closing in the region of 20 branches and sub offices on the island of Ireland in 2013. We expect to be in a position to provide further details in the next few weeks."
Details about the closures had been given to some staff just before Christmas, the IBOA (Irish Bank Officials Association) said in a letter to its members at the bank.
IBOA general secretary Larry Broderick said he was "shocked that an announcement like this was made during a teleconference with no prior consultation with our union".
Trade union officials will meet Ulster Bank executives next week.
Its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland has injected at least €12bn into its unprofitable Irish unit since 2008.
In November the bank was fined €2m by the Central Bank for failing to keep enough money in reserve to meet banking regulations. It is also known to be considering seeking to be regulated in the UK.