Bank of Ireland is to close 103 of its branches across the island of Ireland.

Its chief executive Francesa McDonagh said the closures are across Ireland, including rural locations and Dublin.

Speaking on RTE radio on Monday morning McDonagh said that the trend among its customers was towards digital services and three out of four customers in branches it is closing had not stepped foot inside the bank in over a year.

A statement from the bank said the trend to digital banking has been evident, with customers using branches less and less.

“COVID-19 has accelerated this changing behaviour, and we’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital banking over the past 12 months. We’ve now reached a tipping point in customer preferences between online and offline banking.

“That’s why we’ve also announced changes to our branch network in Ireland and Northern Ireland today, while protecting access to local banking services though a new arrangement with An Post.”

The Bank of Ireland – An Post deal will see customers of the branches that are closing provided with alternative banking options with An Post branches no more than 500m away from the bank branch that closes, CEO McDonagh said.

Branch closures will begin in September.

Bank structure

Bank of Ireland has loans totalling €1.7bn issued to farmers, foresters and the fisheries sector on the island, with agriculture accounting for the majority of these loans.

Of this total, Bank of Ireland has loans to agriculture totalling €1.5bn in the Republic of Ireland, with the remaining €200m of loans with customers in Northern Ireland.

The bank accounts for just over 50% of the €700m in new lending issued to farmers every year, which is roughly €350m issued in new loans to farmers each year. It has 40,000 farmer customers

While it is not the largest sector for new lending, Bank of Ireland says agriculture is a key pillar of its business loan book.

The banks says about 80% of its farmer customer base is located in the bottom half of the country, with the vast majority of lending issued to dairy and beef farmers.

The average loan size to farmers is quite small at just €25,000 reflecting the low level of borrowings across Irish farming.

The bank said it remains committed to agriculture and that it will continue to carry out over 1,000 farm visits every year to meet to farmer customers.