FSU publishes discussion paper on future of banking in Ireland

Issued : 11 March 2021

76% of respondents to FSU poll support establishment of a forum to allow all interested parties have a say in the future of banking

‘Is the banking system fit to serve the needs of society and the economy, now and into the future?’ – that is the question the Financial Services Union is seeking to have answered through the establishment of a structured forum to discuss the future of banking and financial services in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The union, which represents bank, finance and fintech staff in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain, has today (11.03.21) published a discussion paper that sets out the case for such a banking forum.

The document is entitled ‘The future of banking in Ireland and Northern Ireland’ and the issues discussed within include reviewing international and EU trends in banking; the lack of public trust; the opportunities and challenges arising from the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in banking, the closure or downgrading of branches and ATMs, SME lending; digital risks; financial exclusion, illiteracy, and digital exclusion; banking culture and ethics; and reviewing whistle-blower protection.

Commenting, FSU general secretary, John O’Connell said: “The banking sector in Ireland is in turmoil, with redundancies and branch closures announced by a number of banks in recent months. The decision by NatWest, parent company of Ulster Bank, to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland, and Bank of Ireland’s announcement to close 103 branches across the island of Ireland, and the challenges in responding to these, highlights the importance of discussing this crucial sector, and how we can best plan for its future.

“The provision of, and access to, banking and financial services are core to the future prosperity and well-being of people across Ireland, north and south. Providing these services well is crucial. Getting them wrong, as we know from experience, can be disastrous. In-depth debate about the sector is therefore essential. The FSU is calling for such a debate, while setting out some of the issues in the sector that already face us, or which are on the near horizon.

“The issues outlined in the document are ones the FSU feel would benefit from ongoing dialogue, both in informing business practice, government policy, legislative and regulatory approaches, as well as raising education and awareness levels about changes in the sector among individuals, businesses, and communities.

Recent research conducted by Ireland Thinks on behalf of the FSU found that 76% of respondents would be in favour of a banking forum where all stakeholders have a say in the future of banking in Ireland. Some 84% of respondents said that having a local bank branch with face-to-face customers service was important or very important, particularly among the older age groups (65+: 90%); (35-64: 84%). 

Mr O’Connell added: “In simple terms, there is one central question that needs to be answered: ‘Is the banking system fit to serve the needs of society and the economy, now and into the future?’ No one can answer this question without engagement with all stakeholders. Customers, staff, management, trade unions, business and employers’ groups, and other community interests should all have their voices heard.

“The debate on the future of banking should include all stakeholders, including the banks, customers, staff, management, trade unions, business and employers’ groups, and community interests, all of whom will have views about other issues that should be included and discussed. The FSU is publishing this discussion paper as our initial contribution to the debate on the future of banking and as an invitation for all stakeholders to get involved in the discussion. We are delighted that Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy has committed to exploring the creation of a banking forum in Northern Ireland: we are calling on him to convene such a forum, and for the Irish Government to do the same for the Republic of Ireland.

“There have been too many reactive responses to banking issues over the years. The experiences of the past, the pace of change in the sector, and the need to ensure the provision of services that facilitate access, opportunity, and security for people, as well as investment in the economy, make it essential that these issues are discussed in a structured, considered and pro-active way.”


Contact: Brian McDowell, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, FSU. Tel: 087-9161225. Email: [email protected]

Notes to editors:

  • FSU general secretary, John O’Connell is available for interview, on request.
  • The poll was conducted on Saturday, January 16th, 2021 by Ireland Thinks. The poll results are based on a nationally representative sample of 1,247 drawn on the basis of age, gender, region, religious adherence, educational attainment, past vote and political interest.


About FSU

The FSU is Ireland’s leading union across banking and finance. We represent thousands of staff across the main retail banks, and we have members in more than 70 companies across the finance and fintech sectors. Our members are spread across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain. We are headquartered in Dublin and we also have a presence in Belfast. We are members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and UNI Global finance union.