Small firms with Ulster Bank or KBC accounts should ‘act without delay’ to switch banks

Just 3% of the 292,996 accounts closed by exiting lenders by end of August were SME customers

The Small Firms Association (SFA) is urging small and micro-businesses with Ulster Bank or KBC Bank Ireland accounts to act now to ensure continuity of their banking services.

Central Bank statistics published last month showed that just 3 per cent of the 292,996 accounts closed by the two lenders in the eight months to the end of August in advance of their exit from the Irish market belonged to SME customers, almost all held by private households. That meant than potentially tens of thousands of Ulster Bank business customers were yet to switch providers in advance of an initial deadline to do so by October 8th, after which their account would have been frozen.

However, Ulster Bank announced last week that it will extend the deadline by a month following “engagement with stakeholders”.

The NatWest-owned bank had started to issue six-months’ notice periods to customers in April to find alternative homes for their banking. The first wave of customers were set to have their accounts frozen on October 8th, before being closed 30 days later.


While SFA chairman Graham Byrne welcomed Ulster’s decision, he said that small and micro-businesses should not waste any more time in beginning the process, which includes choosing a new provider, moving their balances and transactions, and closing their current and deposit accounts.

“I understand the pressure business owners are currently facing from the energy affordability crisis and rising business costs,” Mr Byrne said. “However, now is the time to ensure that their banking services are not disrupted.”

He said: “As Revenue’s pay-and-file deadline approaches, businesses must also ensure their new account details are up to date with Revenue by using the Revenue Online Service.”

Small businesses need to “act without delay” to ensure continuity of service, Mr Byrne said.

Meanwhile, a survey of 250 SFA members showed that 22 per cent of businesses with fewer than 50 employees had borrowed money in the previous 12 months, mostly to grow and expand their business or purchase new machinery. More than half of respondents said they are managing debt, 63 per cent of which said they had outstanding bank loans, while 28 per cent said they had other financing debts to pay down. Some 22 per cent of small firms said they were currently managing tax debts.

Mr Byrne said the results of the survey show “the importance and need for borrowing” among Ireland’s small businesses and urged the Government to focus on attracting new banks to the Irish market to “fill the gap” left by the two exiting lenders.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times