Saturday 18 January 2020

AIB starts selling off First Trust branches

AIB headquarters in Ballsbridge
AIB headquarters in Ballsbridge

John Mulgrew

AIB’s Northern Ireland arm, FIRST Trust, is selling off several of its former branches after a wave of cuts was announced earlier this year.

The bank revealed it was shutting 15 branches across the North back in February – around half of its branch network here.

That came after the Irish Independent’s sister paper the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ revealed in July 2016 that the bank could shut branches as part of a review of its operations here.

Now, it’s selling off branches it has already shut, and also seeking lettings for others.

That includes High Street in Belfast, on the market for £2m, along with the Ormeau Road, for £350,000.

The bank is also putting a property on High Street in Antrim on the market for £150,000, and one on Main Street in Strabane for the same price.

Commercial property agents are also now trying to find new tenants for properties in Derry, Cookstown and Magherafelt.

Lambert Smith Hampton and Frazer Kidd are both advertising the various bank properties for sale.

A spokeswoman for First Trust confirmed it’s selling off branches which have closed.

Other branch locations being sold off include Bridge Street in Banbridge, which is on sale for £185,000, and Market Street in Downpatrick, at £165,000.

“We are selling the branch properties associated with the closures and these are being advertised via the press and the internet for sale on the open market from this month,” the bank said in a statement.

A total of 15 branches have already shut, with the last to close in Banbridge, Portadown and High Street, Belfast, at the start of this month.

Speaking as around 130 jobs were put on the line earlier this year, head of First Trust, Des Moore, said the bank has seen a 40pc decline in branch usage in the last seven years, with mobile banking up 117pc in the last two years.

A spokeswoman for the bank said that “earlier this year,

following an extensive 18-month strategic review, First Trust Bank announced a reshaping and investment programme to ensure a sustainable

future for the bank and its customers, addressing the considerable shift in customer behaviour”.

The transformation programme includes a significant £10m investment strategy for personal and business customers, including five new business centres across the province, in addition to Belfast.

AIB’s most recent results showed its overall UK business, which includes First Trust, posted pre-tax profits of £140m in 2016.

Irish Independent

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