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Sam Boal
The Banks

Ulster Bank gives current and deposit account customers six months' notice to switch providers

Separately, KBC Bank announced yesterday that from June, customers will get 90 days’ notice to move their accounts.

ULSTER BANK HAS sent an initial round of letters and emails to current and deposit account customers, giving them six months’ notice to find a new service provider and close their old accounts.

It follows KBC Bank’s announcement yesterday that it will begin writing to its 130,000 or so current account customers on a phased basis from June, giving them 90 days to switch and change. 

Both Belgian-owned KBC and NatWest-owned Ulster are in the process of withdrawing from the market in the Republic of Ireland, as announced last year.

Pending approval by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), Ulster will sell €7.6 billion of assets including performing non-tracker mortgages, performing SME loans and 25 branches to Permanent TSB.

AIB plans to buy €4.2 billion in performing corporate and commercial loans from it, provided the deal is cleared by the CCPC.

But current and deposit accounts are not part of any of Ulster Bank’s exit deals with remaining institutions, meaning customers will have to switch to a new provider.

Current accounts are also not part of the deal KBC inked for Bank of Ireland to buy over €8 billion of the bank’s performing loans and €4.4 billion of its deposit accounts. 

Ulster Bank announced last month that it would soon begin the process of writing to almost one million current and deposit account holders “on a phased, rolling basis, to give them six months’ notice” to choose a new bank and switch over their accounts.

In a statement this afternoon, the bank said the first tranche of letters and emails has been sent. Customers are not obliged to take any action until they receive notification from the bank, it said.

In a statement today, Ulster Bank said: “As flagged on 28 March 2022, we have now formally begun writing to current and deposit account customers, on a phased, rolling basis, to give them six months’ notice to Choose a new provider, and Move and Close their Ulster Bank accounts.

“These letters/ emails are being issued in tranches, to help to facilitate orderly account switching and new account opening across the industry and to avoid a single closure date for customers and the industry.

“Customers are not obliged to take any action until they receive their letter or email from us; our branches will remain open throughout this Choose-Move-Close process, to ensure that all customers will have in-branch support available to them, should they require it.”

Ulster Bank also announced changes to its branch services last month to help customers with the move. 

Opening hours will remain the same at all Ulster Bank branches. However, from 1 July, Ulster Bank will:

  • Close counters in all branches from 1pm except to facilitate face-to-face Choose-Move-Close assistance for customers;
  • Cease counter Foreign Exchange services except for foreign cheque lodgements;
  • No longer offer night safe services. 

“This is an important step in the phased withdrawal of Ulster Bank and we recognise that for our customers, especially those who have banked with us for decades, choosing and moving to a new provider requires effort, time and support,” a spokesperson for the bank said today.

“We are taking a responsible and prudent approach which includes regular monitoring and evaluation of the progress throughout this process.”

It follows KBC Bank’s announcement yesterday that it will begin “engaging with customers regarding the closure of their current accounts” from 1 June.

The Belgian-owned bank will issue closure notices to customers on a “phased basis” it said, until all customers have been contacted. Upon receipt of a closure notice, customers will have then 90 days to close their accounts.

In a statement yesterday, KBC Ireland chief executive Ales Blazek said: “Current accounts are not part of the proposed transaction with Bank of Ireland and in order to wind down that business in a responsible manner we wish to give customers as much notice as is possible so that they can make the necessary plans while we prepare for our full exit from Ireland.

“We will therefore be inviting industry participants to a briefing session at which we will share our detailed plans for the closure of current accounts in order to minimise the impact on customers.” 

In recent weeks, concerns have been raised about how prepared the remaining banks — Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB — are to accept the flood of new customers.

John O’Connell, general secretary of the Financial Services Union recently told The Journal that with Bank of Ireland and AIB reducing their physical branch networks, customers are being left “frustrated” by service levels and long waits for appointments with their local branch.

Describing KBC’s announcement as “irresponsible”, O’Connell said in a statement last night: “It is clear from all reports that the banking sector is not ready to deal with the additional workload that will flow from the exit of Ulster Bank and KBC. All the main retail Banks have failed to staff up and make the necessary resources available to ensure that staff and customers are not adversely affected by the exit of Ulster Bank and KBC.”

He added: “Bank branch staff and call centre staff are the public face of the banks. It is not acceptable they have to deal with the frustrations of the general public due to an ongoing lack of a clear plan and appropriate resources and staff to ensure an orderly transition.”

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