IBOA seeks clarity over future of Ulster Bank

Issued : 23 July 2014

IBOA The Finance Union – which represents the majority of employees in Ulster Bank – is seeking clarification about the Bank’s future from the Bank’s senior management.

“The continuing speculation about the future of Ulster Bank is sapping the morale of staff who are already concerned about the implications of a major restructuring programme that has been under discussion for the last three months,” said IBOA General Secretary, Larry Broderick.

“That speculation took another turn this morning with the suggestion that a management-supported private equity takeover of Ulster Bank is among the options being considered by its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland. According to John Walsh in the Irish Examiner, this new proposition would see a US-based private equity firm, most likely either KKR or Apollo, take over Ulster Bank’s Republic of Ireland business, with the current management team remaining in place. Ulster Bank’s Northern Ireland operations would be closely integrated into RBS’s NatWest subsidiary.

“As the senior management teams of neither Ulster Bank nor RBS have offered any clarification about any of the speculation in the course of its ongoing negotiations with the Union on its restructuring plans, IBOA has written to Ross McEwan, RBS Chief Executive, as well as the Republic’s Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, expressing concern about the continuing information vacuum surrounding this major financial institution which is the third largest retail bank in the Republic and the largest in Northern Ireland,” said Mr. Broderick.

“Even though RBS declared its ongoing commitment to Ireland last November, speculation has intensified about the future of Ulster Bank. This continuing uncertainty does nothing to enhance the image of the Bank – especially when it is punctuated by announcements of further branch closures before the end of the year.

“Customers as well as staff are entitled to a clear statement about the future. Loyalty is a two-way street: if banks wish to retain the loyalty of their customers and staff, they must treat them with respect,” said Mr. Broderick. “Accordingly we urge Ulster Bank management to suspend its latest round of branch closures until such time as the future of the Bank has been resolved. We also condemn the instructions given by senior managers to staff in the affected branches not to participate in meetings organised in these communities to discuss the implications of the closure announcement.

“The principle of respect for customers and staff underpins our approach to our engagement with senior management in the talks which have taken place on the restructuring of the business. Direct negotiations between the parties have now concluded – with a number of unresolved issues being referred to an independent mediator, Mark Connaughton, Senior Counsel, who is expected to issue a recommendation shortly. Never easy at the best of times, the mediator’s job becomes even more difficult in an atmosphere where major questions remain about a potential change in the ownership of the bank which would inevitably affect its future operations,” noted the IBOA leader.