Allied Irish Bank prioritises digital services as it cuts workforce

Bank is cutting its operating costs by 10% with job cuts and facility closures, but will continue to invest heavily in technology

Allied Irish Bank (AIB) is cutting its workforce by 1,500, merging branches and vacating premises as it attempts to cut costs following a review influenced by the acceleration of digital banking and home working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bank’s latest announcement included a commitment to spend more on IT.

The pandemic has seen banks across the world rely heavily on IT to both serve customers and enable staff to work remotely during lockdowns, both of which can also reduce operating costs.

AIB wants to cut its costs by 10% a year by 2023, but said it will spend €300m a year on IT to improve functionality, customer experience and security.

It said its latest strategic review was “shaped by the acceleration in trends towards digital banking and changing ways of working through the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Covid-19 has rapidly accelerated customers’ preference for digital banking and they are now interacting with our app more than 1.54 million times a day, compared with 40,000 daily branch visits,” said the bank. There has been an increase in use of its digital services, particularly among customers aged over 65, which saw a 27% increase in digital daily usage.

“Our strategic plan, which will be implemented over the next three years, has been influenced by the accelerating effect of Covid-19 on customers’ preference for digital banking and emerging new trends in how and where our people work,” said AIB CEO Colin Hunt.

He added that digital innovation will enhance the range of financial services and products for the bank’s 2.8 million customers. “Having invested €1.4bn between 2015 and 2019, AIB has a modern, resilient and flexible digital IT architecture, positioning it as the market leader in digital banking,” said Hunt. “As a result, AIB has been well placed to serve its customers digitally during the pandemic as cash usage fell dramatically.”

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AIB said other cost-cutting measures include leaving three out of its six Dublin head offices as leases come up for renewal and merging overlapping branches in urban locations.

“In the light of the proven capability and effectiveness of remote working, a lower headcount and the need to reduce costs, the bank has reassessed its future head office requirements in Dublin, which currently account for 50% of its total property costs,” said the bank. “AIB earlier this week completed the exit from its former headquarters at Bankcentre, Ballsbridge and will leave adjacent premises at Hume House on 31 December.”

recent KPMG and Financial Services Skills Commission survey found that half of workers in the UK’s financial services sector want to continue to be able to work from home for at least part of the week when the pandemic passes. It also found that 26% of staff want to work from home permanently and 13% want to relocate.

Also as a result of the impact of Covid-19, Dutch bank ABN Amro recently announced plans to sell off its head office and redevelop another facility in Amsterdam to support home working. The news came as the bank announced plans to cut 2,800 jobs – 15% of its workforce.

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