The last remaining branch of the Co-operative Bank in Northern Ireland is to close at the end of June.
Last week, the branch on Donegall Square North, Belfast, closed early as bosses informed staff about the upcoming closure.
The Bank has blamed the decision on a significant drop in transactions. Retail and commercial director Liam Coleman said the change “is part of our ongoing business plan to turn the bank around by restructuring and modernising into a simpler, sustainable and more efficient business.
“Unfortunately, part of that denotes closing branches where the number of transactions has declined significantly and means it is simply no longer sustainable.”
The Co-op Bank closed 68 branches in the UK last year, and its current accounts have less than 5% of Northern Ireland’s market. With no branches left in Northern Ireland, there are now only two branches of the Co-op Bank left in Scotland, and 12 in Wales.
While the Bank has been struggling in Northern Ireland, membership of credit unions is on the increase.
According the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), the third quarter of last year saw membership of credit unions grow by 3% to 457,000 in 95 branches. The group says this is evidence of loyalty to not-for-profit lending and that credit unions could save people from relying on payday lenders.
The Co-op Bank has been the subject of much anger from long-time customers and people who chose to bank with them due to their history of ethical finance.
They are currently facing a legal battle with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign after the Bank closed its account, along with 21 other organisations working on behalf of Palestine.
A union called Save Our Bank has also been established from Co-op Bank customers, in an attempt to campaign for ethical banking and build a strong customer voice in how the bank is run.