NORTHERN SHOCK

WIDESPREAD shock has greeted news that, in another hammer blow for Dromore, the Northern Bank is to shut up shop in town in a little under two months time.

The Dromore branch is scheduled to close on Friday, October 26 and merge with Banbridge, in a move some politicians have condemned as showing a lack of loyalty to longstanding local customers.

News that there would be no job losses was welcomed but there have been protests too over the bank’s failure to consult ahead of the decision, which was relayed first to customers and later to local politicians on Friday; it is understood commercial customers were informed of the closure plan a day earlier.

Dromore’s is one of three Northern Bank branches to close and merge with neighbouring branches; the others are in Carryduff and Glengormley.

The bank’s Managing Director of Retail and Private Banking, Tony Wilcox, said, “This is not a decision that we have taken lightly and I fully understand that this news will be disappointing to some of our customers. I would like to reassure all customers that Northern Bank remains committed to continuing to meet their banking needs.

“Over recent years the banking habits of consumers, and our customers, have changed - with many preferring to use other ways of managing their finances rather than relying solely on the branch. Increasingly, customers are turning to the efficiency and convenience of conducting their day to day banking over the telephone, online and in ever growing numbers through our Mobile Banking App for smartphones. Our industry, along with many others, is adapting to innovations in technology and we are responding to consumer expectations of a modern, progressive bank.

“Customers do not need to take any action as their accounts will automatically transfer to their new branch. However as Northern Bank has real time banking, customers can actually use any branch they choose for their everyday banking.”

The closure is also almost certain to rob Dromore of the Northern Bank ATM.

“The bank’s Dromore branch is a listed building,” said Mr. Wilcox, “and so it is very likely that there would be challenges in retaining the ATM in that location in the longer term and after the branch closes.

“Customers can however use the Post Office to withdraw cash locally and we will consider if there are possible alternative locations in the area. There are other ATMs in the local area as well.”

Though not intended, he said, as a replacement for the branch, or the relationship customers might have with the local branch team, Mr. Wilcox said the Post Office facility, whereby customers could check the balance on their account and withdraw cash, was particularly useful to older customers who were already familiar with using the Post Office on a regular basis.