FINANCE: Bank of Cyprus to close symbolic Nicosia branch among 10 others

In a cost-cutting move, Bank of Cyprus will close its landmark branch in the capital at Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square along with 10 other branches facing the chop this year.

BoC’s decision was announced with its Q3 2019 financial results, declaring the bank is to reduce its branches by 8% before the end of the year.

Customers of the symbolic branch at Eleftheria Square have already been told their accounts are to be moved to other branches with all commercial accounts transferred to the BoC branch on Evrou Street.

The last day of operations for the once flagship Nicosia branch is Friday 29 November.

Among other BoC branches to be shut down are Nicosia’s Ayios Pavlos which will close on 6 December. Client accounts will be moved to the branch on Kyriakos Matsi Avenue.

The decision to close 11 branches follows the closure of 26 branches since the beginning of 2018, which represents a 57% reduction compared to the end of 2013.

In 2013, customer service outlets were 230 and by the end of 2019 that figure will dwindle to 99, of which 86 are main branches and 13 operate as cash offices.

In addition, the Bank of Cyprus in October completed a voluntary staff exit plan through which 470 applicants were approved to leave at a total one-off cost of Euros 79 mln, reducing the number of employees by 11%, whilst gross annual savings are estimated at Euros 28 mln or 13% of staff costs.

The bank said the reduction in staff and branches are part of their rationalisation footprint and their drive to digitalise their business.

Bank of Cyprus CEO Panicos Nicolaou said the ongoing Digital Transformation Program, the adoption of digital products and services continues to grow and gain momentum.

“Some 75% of transactions involving deposits, cash withdrawals and transfers take place via digital channels and the number of active users of mobile banking has increased by 54% since June 2017”.

Bank of Cyprus’ move, follows Hellenic Bank’s decision to close a string of rural branches, formerly belonging to the Co-op which it acquired in September 2018.

These closures had stirred strong reaction from communities blaming the bank for leaving them without a branch to conduct their business.

The closure of a large number of bank branches island-wide has mainly affected remote rural areas that have been left without even an ATM, making life in the country difficult.

Earlier this year, scores of residents from villages in Limassol’s winegrowing region took to the streets to protest Hellenic’s decision to shut down a branch in Pachna, leaving some 20 villages without a single bank to serve them.

Residents argue they were left without even an ATM at a time when there are efforts to revive the irural communities.

Leaving these areas without access to a bank branch meant the elderly having to travel far to reach the nearest bank.

Since 2013 a total of 486 bank branches have closed in Cyprus following the demise of two of its largest lenders, Laiki Bank and the Coop in 2013 and 2018 respectively.

As a result, bank customers have seen service points reduced drastically to less than half.

Before the economy crashed, in 2012, a year before the closure of Laiki Bank, bank branches numbered a huge 850.

With the 2013 bailout and demise of the second largest bank in Cyprus and its absorption by BoC, the number of branches reduced to 682.

The next wave of shrinkages came in 2016 with the number of branches dropping to 544 and in to 2017 that number shrank to 460.

Last year, with the demise of the Co-op and following its good assets being acquired by Hellenic Bank, the number of customer branches fell to 386.

Source: The Financial Mirror