As own goals go the one AIB management slammed into the back of their own net last week was pretty spectacular and is likely to do serious and long lasting damage to its reputation.
When the bank made its surprising – to put it very mildly – announcement last Tuesday that it was cutting cash service in 70 branches claimed it was making the move due to “falling levels of cash usage and cheque transactions”.
That may well prove to be a self fulfilling prophecy as, regardless of the bank’s U-turn, many thousands of its rural customers are almost certainly now thinking about moving their accounts.
It could well be that AIB ends up seeing a massive decline in all transactions, in all its branches as a result of its appalling behaviour last week.
One imagines the men and women at the upper levels of Bank of Ireland must be rubbing their hands with glee as they await an influx of livid AIB customers.
It’s hard to imagine what AIB’s bosses were thinking when they made the announcement. Yes, cash is now used far less often – particularly after the pandemic – but we’re still a very long way from being a cash free economy.
Older people and those who are less tech savvy – or are wary of it – still very much prefer old fashioned cash transactions and many businesses – especially smaller ones and those in the retail and hospitality sectors – have no option but to deal with notes and coin, and lots of them.
There are also still huge swathes of the country, in precisely the areas AIB wanted its branches to go cash free, where internet access is dismal and online banking can be a literal impossibility.
It might, just about, be acceptable to have a cashless branch in a major city, where an alternative cash handling branch could be relatively nearby, but asking someone in a rural are to do a 120 kilometre round trip to lodge or withdraw a few Euro is nothing short of outrageous.
It also makes a mockery of AIB’s lavishly produced – and often unbearably twee – ‘We’re Backing Brave’ advertising campaign in which the bank extols the virtues of heroic SME owners and, of course, its own benevolent efforts to help them.
Perhaps the ad campaign needs a quick rewrite.
“We’re backing Brave. Well, unless you live in rural Ireland”. Sounds like a real winner doesn’t it?
Of course AIB – which has received €20.8 billion in taxpayer funded bailout payments since the economic crash it helped bring about – didn’t help it’s cause by failing to tell the Government what it was about to do to the people of rural Ireland.
Considering the Irish State still owns 63 per cent of AIB – down from the 99.8 per cent stake when it was effectively nationalised – it seems unusual that they wouldn’t deign to let their Government owners know. Now that’s really brave.
The phrase “another nail in the coffin of rural Ireland” has been trotted out so often it’s become cliché but in this case it would have been true. Thankfully AIB have been brave enough to do a complete 180 on their atrocious proposal.