End of an era as AIB shuts 44 branches in drive for savings
BAILED-out AIB has permanently shut down 44 of its branches as the era of having a bank on every main street draws to a close.
The move is part of an overall plan to close a total of 67 outlets by next year.
AIB said the mass closure and amalgamation of some branches followed a review of services and was a bid to return the bank to viability.
Head of branch banking Denis O'Callaghan said many outlets had seen a decline in customer visits.
"We have seen a very significant change in the way our customers wish to do their banking," said Mr O'Callaghan.
"Notwithstanding this, branches will remain an important part of AIB's overall distribution strategy and will be complemented by an enhanced online service."
Three other outlets closed earlier this month, four are expected to shut down in November and the remaining 16 will close in 2013.
The closures will cut its total number of branches to just over 200.
Branch closures are now the most obvious sign of the radical shrinking of the bank sector.
Other lenders have already pulled down the shutters on dozens of branches and Ulster Bank, the country's third biggest bank, is likely to follow suit with its own closures, probably next year.
National Irish Bank is closing all of its 27 branches.
In July, Permanent TSB announced its own plans to close 19 branches by the end of the year, out of a total of 92.
Bank of Ireland says it will buck the trend.
The bank last night insisted that it had no plans to cut any of its branches, even as it implemented a large-scale redundancy programme.
Branches will remain open but with slimmed-down staff numbers and beefed-up technology, under Bank of Ireland's plans.
It leaves Ulster Bank as the lender most likely to announce closures soon.
The bank was tipped to announce plans to close around 40 of its 146 branches this summer but the news never came.
Any such plans had to be put on hold when the bank's IT system crashed, forcing customers back into branches to conduct routine transactions.
Last night, a spokeswoman said the issue of branch closures remained "under review".
However, Ulster Bank has already announced plans to cut 950 jobs through a voluntary redundancy scheme.
That is thought to include around 450 branch staff, a figure that looks certain to mean a significant number of branches will ultimately close.