AIB rows back on plans to make some of its branches cashless

AIB had planned to make 70 of its branches cashless by the end of the year, including removing ATMs and ceasing the provision of cheque services.

AIB has announced that it's abandoning its plans to make a large number of it branches cashless by the end of 2022.

The decision to row back on its plans comes only days after Ireland's largest retail bank announced its intentions to cease offering cash services and ATM facilities in 70 of its branches nationwide. 

Under the initial plans announced the select branches were to be repurposed to focus more on account-opening facilities, mortgages, loans, and other personal finance services offered by the bank.

However, after intense public criticism and a suggestion by the Taoiseach to rethink its decision, AIB will now no longer go ahead with the move.

AIB's decision to cancel its cashless plans will not affect its banking services available to customers through An Post branches nationwide.

Public unease

In a statement released by the bank, it said it 'recognised the customer and public unease' that the decision caused, and so has made a decision not to go ahead with the move.

AIB did however outline that there are significant changes occurring in the banking sector which informed its initial plans to make some branches cashless.

In its initial announcement it claimed that a declining demand for cash and cheque services was the main reason behind its decision to go cashless in some branches.

Nevertheless, the bank has since cancelled its plans to move forward with 70 cashless branches.

It remains to be seen whether AIB will float the plans some time again in the near future.

Discussing the news, a spokesperson for AIB said:

It was in the context of the evolving banking environment and the opportunity to enhance its long-standing relationship with An Post that AIB took the decision to remove cash services from 70 of its branches.

However, recognising the customer and public unease that this has caused, AIB has decided not to proceed with the proposed changes to its bank services.

The bank continues to retain its 170-strong branch network in its entirety and will also continue to offer banking services through its relationship with An Post at its 920 post offices nationwide.

Evolving banking environment

Despite AIB overturning its decision, it has stood by the fact that it has seen 'a dramatic increase in the use of digital banking services, as well as a decline in branch visits and cash usage".

In its case, the bank said that it has 2.9 million daily digital interactions compared with 35,000 visits by customers in-branch.

AIB also stated that it has seen a 36% decline in cash withdrawals from ATMs and a 50% fall in cheque usage over the past five years.

Furthermore, AIB said that it has seen a fall of almost 50% in over-the-counter branch transactions, while mobile and online payments increased by 85%, also over the last five years.

The cashless branch announcement was announced as part of a wider €40m investment programme that would have funded the changes required, as well as the cost of expanding its services to more post office locations.

Cashless pushback

In the days following its initial announcement, huge pushback came from consumers, advocacy groups, journalists, and the Government.

AIB came in for particular criticism for leaving rural Ireland out in the cold when it comes to the provision of cash services, with many communities highlighting the long distances they would now have to travel to lodge or withdraw cash.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged AIB to "reconsider and reflect on" its decision to remove cash withdrawal and lodgement facilities, which will likely have played a large part in its overall decision to no longer go ahead with its plans.

The leader of Fianna Fáil said: "AIB should reconsider and reflect on this and consider the people that have been loyal down through the years, particularly the more senior generations."

What are your thoughts?

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