Ulster Bank decision to close all branches in April not in the best interests of consumers, staff, or business.

24 January 2023

Central Bank must act to ensure an orderly exit and protect consumers says FSU.

The announcement by Ulster Bank (UB) that they plan to close their remaining 63 branches in the Republic of Ireland is bad for staff, bad for consumers and bad for business according to John O’Connell, General Secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU).

Commenting on the announcement John O’Connell said:

“The latest figures published by the Central Bank (CB) showed 674,780 accounts still open in Ulster Bank and KBC with nearly 300,000 of those accounts deemed by the banks to be active accounts and nearly 200,000 to be the customer’s primary account. We await this month’s figures from the CB but it is clear there will still be hundreds of thousands of people with active Ulster Bank accounts.  It is incomprehensible to think the Central Bank are going to stand by and watch hundreds of thousands of people be forcefully rebanked over the next ten weeks.

The FSU have long called for the exit timelines to be extended and for customers and staff to be treated with dignity and respect. The announcement by Ulster Bank today shows a complete lack of understanding and awareness from the Bank of the upheaval that the exit of UB is having on staff and customers. We know from figures supplied by the BPFI and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) that large amounts of people are struggling with changing direct debits. We also know KBC, the smaller bank has given timelines of end of August for its closure. Why do Ulster Bank with over 1 million customers continue to persist with the notion they can orchestrate an orderly exit by end March.

The recent banking review report recommended banks give six months’ notice to the Central Bank of its intention to close branches. The Central Bank needs to inform us if this recommendation, which has been adopted by Government has been implemented by the Central Bank and what notice did Ulster Bank give of its decision to close its remaining 63 branches.

The view of the Dail Finance Committee, as stated in their recent banking report is the culture in the banks has not improved or changed since the financial crash. In this instance the actions of Ulster Bank seem to be proving them right.

It is time for the Central Bank and politicians to find their voice and stand up for consumers and staff and instruct Ulster Bank to set realistic and achievable timelines so we can achieve an orderly exit of both UB and KBC.