You cannot close a 200-year-old institution with over a million customers in six months

08 November 2022

Pressurising customers without understanding their reasons for not acting is not an acceptable tactic – says FSU


Forced rebanking is not part of Irish Banking Culture


John O’Connell, General Secretary of the Financial Services Union has called on the Central Bank to intervene to ensure that no customer goes unbanked because of the exits of both Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish retail banking market.

Ulster Bank have indicated they will begin freezing some accounts on November 11th and KBC will begin in December. Reports say this could involve Ulster Bank freezing up to 3,600 accounts this Friday and this figure will multiply as each week goes by.

Commenting on the current position Mr O’Connell said:

“From the outset the FSU have called on Ulster Bank and KBC to set realistic timelines for their closure to ensure an orderly transition for consumers.

The reports that Ulster Bank intend to press ahead with freezing thousands of customer accounts this week is totally unacceptable and should be blocked by the Central Bank.

It is unconscionable to think that a customer who is still fully or partly reliant on their Ulster Bank account will be forcibly rebanked by having their account frozen and as a result will have no access to their own money. This action raises serious concerns for the right of citizens to have a Bank account and for the health and safety of staff as irate customers look to regain access to their money.

The Governor of the Central Bank recently indicated that the Regulator may take action to block Ulster Bank from pressing ahead with their plans. The Central Bank should act on the Governors words and immediately inform Ulster Bank and KBC that no customer should be refused access to their own money.

A clear statement from Ulster Bank and the regulator is required that will reassure customers that no person will lose access to their own money or will go unbanked.

Alarming people with the threat of freezing their account is not acceptable. It is obvious from the recent CCPC survey that there are real problems in the system that is preventing people from closing their Ulster Bank account and switching to new providers. The survey cited 60% of customers experiencing problems. We need to have full transparency on the barriers facing people trying to close and open accounts.

Ulster Bank gave assurances they would exit the Irish banking market in an orderly manner. You cannot close a 200-year-old institution with over a million customers in six months. Realistic timelines for closure need to be agreed with all stakeholders and full transparency on the reasons why people are not closing their accounts needs to be gathered and then published.

It is time these banks lived up to their own words and put customer and staff needs first.”