Thousands hit by First Trust closure

The First Trust Bank in Ballyclare.   INNT 09-429-RM
The First Trust Bank in Ballyclare. INNT 09-429-RM

THOUSANDS of Ballyclare First Trust customers will be affected by the bank’s decision to close the town’s branch later this year.

The bank announced last week that the Main Street branch will be closed on May 24 affecting six staff and around 3,000 customers.

The closures will not affect customer account numbers, sort codes, or the existing operation of their accounts.

Customers will receive a letter explaining that their accounts will be automatically transferred to the Antrim branch of the bank.

A dedicated helpline number will be provided for customer queries and staff will work closely with customers to establish their individual banking needs and to minimise any inconvenience resulting from the transfer to alternative branches.

Staff employed in the branch will be redeployed or offered voluntary severance packages.

First Trust Bank’s managing director, Gerry McGinn, said there was still a “very strong network” of branches throughout Northern Ireland.

“Regrettable as they are,” he said, “the closures are part of an ongoing strategy to bring the bank back to a sustainable operating model and will not involve compulsory redundancies.

“Like all retail businesses, we must constantly review our costs in order to move forward as a more streamlined and sustainable organisation.

“The detailed review of our branch network has considered how customers are using our branches and how they’re adapting to our continuing innovations in technology.

“It is never an easy decision to close branches and our focus is on minimising inconvenience to our customers and continuing to provide them with a professional, efficient banking service.”

South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke said he was disappointed about the news of the branch closure, he said: “Many customers who prefer to bank by traditional means will now have to travel to Antrim to avail of a face to face service.

“But the biggest concern to me is that there will inevitably be job losses for staff and in this economic climate it is very unfortunate for the individuals and families affected.

“This is difficult news for staff to take in at the beginning of a new year and it saddens me that this decision has been made rather than some other arrangement being put in place to preserve jobs.”

Meanwhile accounts for customers from the Fortwilliam branch of the bank, which is also due to close, will be moving to the Glengormley branch.