Irish current account openings double in three months amid ‘big switch’

Ulster Bank and KBC gave customers six-month notice to find alternative banking arrangements

Some 71,000 personal current accounts were opened in the Republic in the four weeks to early July, marking a doubling in the pace of activity in three months, ahead of the exits of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the market.

The data, provided by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, cover Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB as well as An Post and credit unions.

A total of 297,000 personal current accounts have been opened in the market between the start of 2022 and July 8th, it said.

However, the figures do not break down account openings resulting directly from the so-called big switch by Ulster and KBC customers from those that would take place in the normal course of business across the financial services industry.

Bank of Ireland, which has close to a 40 per cent share of the Irish current account market, estimated this week that holders of about 40 per cent of the about 500,000 active Ulster and KBC personal and business current accounts as of the end of last year have already moved.

Bank of Ireland said that it opened 110,000 new current accounts in the first half of this year, more than double the pace recorded for the same period in 2021.

Permanent TSB executives said last week that Ulster and KBC customers aged over 55 were initially the most active at finding new homes for their banking, but that those between 35 and 55 have started to move in the last two months.

Ulster and KBC started writing in recent months on a phased basis to holders of more than a million current and deposit accounts, giving them six months’ notice to find alternative banking arrangements as they retreat from the market.

KBC’s deposit accounts are set to transfer to Bank of Ireland as part of a wider deal that also involves the sale of its almost €9 billion of performing loans.

A key concern exists around the handling of the opening of current accounts with new providers, together with their attending direct debits, standing orders and regular payments.

Even in cases where existing direct debit arrangements can, in theory, move under a Central Bank switching code, many direct debit originators and receivers will take instructions directly only from their customers, according to banking industry officials.

Permanent TSB said that only 10 per cent of customers setting up current accounts with the bank this year are using the switching code, with the rest handling the process themselves, mainly through its digital app.

The bank, which currently only allows people setting up joint current accounts to do so in person in its branches, plans to allow such openings digitally from September.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times