First Active clients switch to Ulster Bank as name expunged

Sat, Feb 13, 2010, 00:00

FIRST ACTIVE will cease to exist as a bank from Monday as Ulster Bank moves about 400,000 customers from the lender to the bank’s own technology system, marking the completion of the merger of the two sister banks.

The finalisation of the merger comes more than a year after Ulster Bank announced that it would close First Active and merge its business and customers into the bank’s network. Ulster Bank has already merged about three-quarters of First Active’s 60 branches, and closed the rest.

Ulster Bank will launch a marketing campaign in the national media over coming days to notify customers of the latest move.

Customers will not be required to do anything after the transfer of the First Active system into Ulster Bank. Bank staff are this weekend working to complete the transfer.

From Monday, the bank plans to open branches near outlets of Halifax to allow customers of the rival bank to transfer their current accounts and credit cards to Ulster Bank, following the decision by Bank of Scotland (Ireland) this week to close the Halifax branch network and its retail business.

Ulster Bank will keep any branches near Halifax outlets open until 7pm to allow customers to transfer their accounts.

The trade union Unite, which represents staff at Bank of Scotland (Ireland) (BoSI), plans to protest at Ulster Bank branches or its head office on George’s Quay in Dublin over the bank’s move.

Unite is trying to force BoSI to reverse its decision on the closure and the proposed 750 job cuts.

Brian Gallagher, a regional officer at Unite, said Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Ulster Bank’s parent, had threatened the union with legal action if it proceeds with the planned demonstrations at any of its Irish branches.

More than 50,000 current account and credit card customers will have to move from Halifax from the end of May following the bank’s decision to close its retail business and 44 branches.

First Active and Ulster Bank were run separately after RBS, the bank’s UK parent, acquired First Active in January 2004.

The former First National Building Society, which took a stock market listing in 1998, was established in 1861 as the Working man’s Benefit Building Society.

Ulster Bank, which currently has 146 branches across the Republic, made the decision to close First Active and merge the business with the bank following a dramatic reduction in banking activity, particularly in the mortgage market, where First Active was an aggressive player.

The bank said it would be seeking 750 redundancies when it announced the merger in January 2009. The number of redundancies was later increased to 1,000 due to demand from staff.