Friday, July 29, 2022

Vivienne Clarke

The chief executive of AIB has confirmed the bank will not revisit controversial plans to make 70 of its branches cashless.

Colin Hunt added that the bank’s 170 branches will remain as they are for as long as he is chief executive.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Hunt said he was not in the business of trying to spread blame or dodge responsibility. “We got it wrong.”

“This was a proposal that the bank had developed and we made a mistake, we had very strong negative feedback from our customers, they contacted us through email, through mail, by telephones, in branches, made it clear that they did not want this to happen,” he said.

“We heard the feedback, we listened to it, we acted on it, we reversed that plan, we’ve withdrawn that proposal, it’s off the agenda and branch services will continue as they exist today.”

When asked about a comment from Minister of State Sean Fleming that the Department of Finance had been “blindsided” by AIB’s proposal, Mr Hunt said AIB was a publicly listed company and all communications with shareholders were governed by various rules.

“We have formal arrangements for engagement with the Department of Finance and we complied with that,” he said.

“I’m not in the business today of trying to spread blame or dodge responsibility – this was the bank’s proposal which we announced, we gave a lot of thought to the initial proposal which was all about seeking to future-proof our branch network.”

Inevitable

Mr Hunt added that there had been “very heavy engagement” with An Post in advance of the announcement, but they got it wrong.

“We made a mistake and within three days we reversed course, we withdrew the proposal and I want to reassure customers that existing bank services will continue as they are today.

“This plan was all about keeping the branches open, it was all about maintaining a strong physical presence in communities around the country, it was all about keeping AIB staff in the communities that we serve. The plan is withdrawn, it is not going to be revisited.

“In 2030 will banking services look different? I’d think it is inevitable that they will. But the lesson for us from this is that we moved far too far, far too fast, we’re not going to run ahead of our customers again.”

When asked if the bank’s 170 branches would remain open while he is CEO, Mr Hunt said: “Yes I can give that guarantee.”

It comes as AIB reported profit after tax for the first six months of the year of €477 million, up 74 per cent on the same period last year.

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