South Down MLA Sean Rogers (SDLP) has expressed his concern regarding the planned closure of a First Trust branch in his constituency. Mr Rogers said: “I am extremely disappointed to hear that the First Trust branch in Ballynahinch will close on 4 October 2013. I understand that Customer Accounts in this branch will be moved to the Lisburn branch.
“According to management, the merger is as a result of customer trends leading to an increase in online, phone or Internet Business Banking (iBB). Therefore, after a comprehensive review, the decision has been made to close the Ballynahinch branch and transfer accounts to Lisburn.
“While I have been given written assurances from senior management that the closure and transfer of accounts will be as smooth as possible, with no inconvenience for customers, I have concerns for the people who use the Ballynahinch branch.
“Such justification of the closure will be cold comfort to the loyal customers of the branch concerned. While online banking has increased, I have no doubt that many of whom are part of the older generation, still prefer to do their banking on a face to face basis. Furthermore a reduction of service for people in rural areas, who have a limited access to broadband, is extremely concerning.
“Many customers will be greatly inconvenienced by having to change to a different branch to conduct their banking. At a time when confidence in the Banking industry is low these closures only serve to increase peoples stress and reduce customer confidence.
“Furthermore, I believe that First Trust should have given more consideration to moving affected accounts. The transfer of all accounts to Lisburn is a clear indication to me that First Trust has given little thought to the individual needs of their customers. After talking to some of those that will be affected by the closure, they have expressed that either Downpatrick or Newcastle would be far more convenient branches for them, instead of having to make the journey to Lisburn to carry out their banking affairs,” added Mr Rogers.