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AIB to sublet 20,000 sq ft of its Northern Ireland HQ building



Premises on Ann St, Belfast

Premises on Ann St, Belfast

Premises on Ann St, Belfast

Lender AIB is letting out about a third of its headquarters space in Belfast's city centre, adding over 20,000 sq ft of space to the office market.

It's the latest big bank to put flagship space up for rent, after Danske Bank let out some of its landmark Donegall Square West building to PwC and Grant Thornton.

Analysts at Goodbody have said that AIB is looking at reducing costs on an all-island basis as it continues to confront the impact of Covid-19.

That cost reduction could be in the order of €200m so as to allow the bank hit its medium term targets and may also see further property sub-letting on both sides of the border, reflecting an expectation staff will spend less time working centrally in future.

AIB's long-time Dublin headquarters at Bank Centre in Ballsbridge is being redeveloped as a new home for Facebook and its staff have already moved to a number of new, smaller, sites around Dublin including a management headquarters in Molesworth St, but some of those new units can be sub let, it is understood.

In August AIB paused a previously announced plan to cut around 1,300 jobs, saying it needed the staff to deal with the fallout from Covid-19.

AIB's Northern Ireland headquarters premises on Belfast's Ann Street was built in 1992 and part of the offices have been refurbished.

In total, 29,200 sq ft have gone on the market through agents Frazer Kidd.

The refurbishment has taken around a year, with the plans for the letting believed to be unrelated to the impact of Covid or any trend for homeworking among bank staff.

But availability of more office space on the market comes at a period of uncertainty about the future, as the majority of office workers continue to stay at home due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

A recent survey by Belfast Chamber found that just 5pc of city centre workers are back at their desks. There are fears that the trend will lead to a scaling back by existing occupiers as well as a lack of future occupiers.

A spokesman for AIB said: "In 2019 AIB NI began a significant refurbishment of its Ann Street head office location, bringing it up to A Grade office standard. The space has been optimised in such a way that now AIB has additional capacity after accommodating its existing staff with 20,000 sq ft of lettable space available," the spokesman said.

"As AIB has no requirement for this additional space, we have engaged Frazer Kidd to let this space on our behalf."

The spokesman yesterday quoted an August interim update for the Ireland-wide group, which said that 80pc of staff were working from home. There were no figures for the capacity of the Ann Street building or how many AIB staff are presently using it.

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Meanwhile, in the State, AIB is to cut a string of personal savings rates to zero, and has told small firms it is changing the terms and conditions of their accounts to allow it to impose negative rates on them in future.

The move has heightened fears that personal customers will be next to be changed negative interest rates.

The European Central Bank first cut rates into negative territory in June 2014 and they have been there ever since.

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