Once a sessions house, a courthouse and a Catholic church, it was later used as a dance hall, a cinema and a theatre. Most people seem to recall the dance hall days where young men and women of Roscommon and its environs danced to well-known bands of the time. The dancing has now stopped, the band no longer plays, but there are other sounds now, the voices of young men and women conducting business transactions in the same building, which is now known as the Bank of Ireland. There are twenty-four employees, twenty female and four male. Caroline Dervan is one of the management team, and she talked to me about her background and her banking role. ‘I was born in Knockcroghery, the eldest of five children to Michael and Mary Creaven. I went to Knockcroghery National School for primary education and then on to secondary school in the Convent of Mercy, Roscommon. After that, I studied a Business Studies Diploma in Athlone College. ‘When I left college in 1989, I started three days later working with the Bank of Ireland at the Longford branch, and over the years moved on to other branches throughout the region. ‘I gained a lot of experience in customer service, administration, personal lending, etc., which helped to further develop my career, while at the same time satisfying the business needs of the bank. During the early years of my employment I also qualified through part-time education as a Certified Public Accountant.’ Business banking is a specific entity, and I asked Caroline how she progressed to her present position. ‘When the Bank was setting up its Business Centre, I went to work in the Tuam branch, specifically in business banking, and it was there, and later, in the Ballinasloe branch, that I trained. ‘I reverted back to branch banking in order to further my people-management skills, and I was the Branch Manager in Elphin for the year I was there.’ Caroline now felt she had gained the necessary experience, and applied for the post of Business Manager in Roscommon. She was appointed, and has been in the position since 2003, the only Business Manager in the branch. Caroline has a support team of two staff members working directly with her. She is responsible for the business customers in the region – almost the whole county of Roscommon – and travels on a regular basis to various branches to conduct business transactions, though she is, of course, based in Roscommon town. She went on to describe the procedure in dealing with a customer. ‘During our meeting we would carry out a full analysis of the business needs of the customer. We would obtain and collate the information from the customer, and package it in order that it is acceptable for the customer and also for the bank. Given that we as a bank are a one-stop-shop in financial terms, we have the resources to provide the customer with commercial finance, residential mortgages, asset finance, credit card services, assurance and income protection advice, together with wealth management and savings products. All of the services that are mentioned are available in the Bank of Ireland branch in Roscommon. We have a team of specialists together with the branch staff that are on hand to provide the advice and arrange the products for our existing and new customers.’ She talked about the various areas of business banking. ‘It is divided into four core groups; agricultural business, commercial business, manufacturing business and industrial business. Agricultural business would be one of our main areas, but we would also have a high proportion of commercial business. This is due to the fact that our region has both rural and urban areas. ‘The building boom has also increased our business in commercial and private property over the last few years. This, of course, is happening in every town in the country. The manufacturing and industrial sectors may be smaller, but they do exist, and are very important to us financially.’ Caroline is married to Noel who is Principal in Lisaniskey NS, Clooneycolgan. Their son, Cian, 8, attends there, and their daughter, Cathy, 14, is a pupil in the Convent of Mercy here in Roscommon town. Combining home and work is no difficult task for Caroline. ‘I generally start at 9 am and finish between 5.30 and 5.45 pm, depending on the work-load. I love my job, and, as I worked before my children were born, I’m accustomed to it now and don’t find it a problem. Even before I got married, working was a part of my life. It helps to have a very supportive husband, and both our families are local, which is a great advantage too. ‘The job is divided between the sourcing and approval of new business, together with the administration it involves on a daily basis. I meet a lot of customers, and have continuous telephone contact when dealing with their requests. Each day is different, and this makes the job much more interesting. Time management and a good structure are very important in my job, due to the number of customer interactions daily.’ She and her support team deal at present with several hundred customers. ‘On a daily basis, we deal with all of the requirements in the processing of loan requests, the completion of the required documentation, making and receiving telephone calls, and carrying out urgent follow-ups, all to ensure a high level service is given to our customers, resulting in a satisfactory transaction for them.’ Caroline tells me she is very happy in her job, and does not anticipate moving from business banking at present. What is it that makes it special for her? ‘I enjoy it immensely, and look forward to coming to work. There is a great variety to my work, and the support of my manager Micheál and the other staff members make my job all the easier. We have a great team of people in the branch in Roscommon, all striving to ensure we provide an excellent service to our customers.’ Bank of Ireland currently hold the No 1 or 2 position in the country for market share in all of the major product line. ‘We have the largest branch network in the country with 273 branches and eight mortgage stores. This coupled with the direct product sales, comprehensive online and telephone banking gives our 1.2 million customers every opportunity to complete their daily banking requirements. ‘There are great opportunities within the banking organisation to diversify and progress. It doesn’t have to be business banking. There is personal banking, insurance and investment, mortgage banking or underwriting. With so many areas of banking, there is a wide choice. Having branches in cities and counties here and in the UK opens up whole new job opportunities.’ We are all very much aware of the need for security, and I asked Caroline how she felt about this. ‘Yes, security is very important, and we are aware of this constantly, and are vigilant at all times. That is part of our job, and there are procedures and plans in place to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. However, it is something you become accustomed to, having lived with it all your working life’. We are now in the age of electronic commerce, with its unlimited choice. In 1980 the first ATM was launched, and in the nineties the Bank issued the Visa card. In 1996, 365-telephone banking was launched, and in 1997, this was followed up with 365 on on-line banking. Next came the chip and pin card, and now we all await the next technological invention and innovation. We have come a long way on the road to financial progression in the two hundred years plus, since 1783 when the Bank of Ireland opened its doors to the public at Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, with the first issue of bank notes. In our thriving, prosperous town of Roscommon, we have a highly technological banking structure. The impressive building holding centre stage in the town centre looks down on the main street, and beyond. No longer a dance hall thronged with happy, innocent faces, it has become for us a vital influence in our daily lives as we scramble all around in our materialistic world.