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VOICES

Financial analyst Irish Banks are now in for a shock when it comes to savings

Mark Coan of moneysherpa.ie shares some good news for savers and bad news for Irish banks.

LAST UPDATE | 11 Dec 2023

IN A BID to capture a significant slice of the €150 Billion of household savings currently on deposit with Irish banks, Dutch bank bunq has just launched a new instant savings rate 22 times higher than the average instant savings rate in Ireland.

The move is set to send shock waves through Irish banking as recent soaring profits are almost entirely driven by the difference between the ECB deposit rate, which is currently 4%, and the rate Irish retail banks offer to savers, which is just 0.11% on average, according to the latest data from the Central Bank of Ireland.

By parking household deposits on overnight rates with the ECB and paying such low rates to savers, Irish banks have recently been able to boost their profits by almost €7 Billion a year.

Offering choice

With 93%, over €142 Billion, of Irish household deposits currently on overnight interest rates, this was always a risky strategy. Unlike those in fixed-term savings accounts, these savers are able to vote with their feet and move their money easily.

The difference between even the best instant rate available from the Irish banks and the new bunq offer is significant. Around €10,000 put aside for three years will earn savers over €462 more with bunq at 2.46% than with the best instant savings rate currently available from the Irish banks, 0.25% AER from AIB.

It’s not even that hard or scary for depositors to make the switch – bunq is the Dutch equivalent of Revolut and so is user friendly when it comes to setup options. The savings account is free, they now have an Irish IBAN, have over nine million customers across Europe and are covered by the European deposit guarantee scheme up to €100,000 just like the Irish banks.

Commenting on the new bunq savings rate of 2.46% Ali Niknam, the high-profile founder and CEO of bunq said “Our users in Ireland love us for our advanced security features, ease of use, and transparency. We’re happy to give our Irish users the best possible interest rate, fully insured and without the fine print”.

With nothing standing in their way and such a huge disparity between returns, it’s hard to see what’s now stopping a mass migration of depositors away from Irish banks. Plus bunq isn’t the only European player currently eyeing Irish bank deposits, both German fintech Raisin and UK-based Revolut are rumoured to have instant savings products in the works.

Irish banks will lose

Faced with a possible mass defection of savers, it’s likely that Irish banks will now have to boost their own rates to savers.

Up until now, Irish banks have focussed on increasing the rates available on the much less popular fixed-term savings accounts leaving their on demand savings products largely untouched. As fixed term accounts tie people in, they are great for banks, but not so much for savers.

If they want to shore up the 93% of deposits on overnight rates, Irish banks will now have to increase their instant savings rates.

The Irish banks will then face a choice of eating into their current super profits or trying to maintain them by increasing the rates they charge to variable mortgage holders.

It seems that we may be seeing some real competition emerging in a previously overly cosy banking market. As the Minister for Public Expenditure Pascal Donohue said recently “Looking to put money in other parts of Europe, is not an unpatriotic act. It’s the way the single market functions.”

moneysherpa.ie is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and is an independent personal finance website founded by Mark Coan who previously held senior positions with the Irish Independent and Permanent TSB.

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