Ulster Bank is laying the ground for plans to repatriate more than €4 billion of capital to its UK parent, as the bank closes its remaining 63 branches and its cash machines in the Republic on Friday, hastening a retreat from the market.
The bank, owned by NatWest Group, has passed shareholder resolutions, following procedures allowed under Irish company law, that have created “profits available for distribution” of €4.24 billion, according to recent filings with the Companies Registration Office (CRO). This represents the so-called share capital and share premium on its balance sheet as of the end of last year.
A spokeswoman declined to comment on when the bank will start making transfers to NatWest Group, adding that “any capital repatriation remains subject to regulatory approval”. The company said in its annual report that it will still take “a number of years” to fully withdraw from the market.
The bank had previously signalled that it would be next year at the earliest before it returns its licence to the Central Bank.
Meanwhile, Ulster Bank, which has sold or agreed to dispose most of its loans to AIB and Permanent TSB, is likely to put its remaining branches up for sale before the end of the year. It transferred 25 locations to Permanent TSB earlier this year and owns 31 of the remaining 63 offices outright. It rents the remainder.
“Today is a poignant day in Ulster Bank’s 187-year history as our remaining 63 branches in the Republic of Ireland will close their doors for the last time,” chief executive Jane Howard said. “While the focus in recent months has been on supporting our customers as they move to new banking providers, we know our branches and colleagues have been a central part of communities around the country for many years.”
Ms Howard said she would “strongly urge any remaining customer who has not yet moved their current and deposit account to act swiftly to find a new provider and move their accounts”.
A range of customer services and supports will continue from Friday, through telephone and online channels, to help remaining customers move and close their accounts, the bank said. Known vulnerable customers will still continue to be supported in moving to a new banking provider, it added.
Since Ulster Bank started a campaign last year to get customers to move their banking, 99 per cent of personal current and deposit accounts have either been closed, remained inactive, or seen customers wind down to low levels of activity, it said. The same has applied to some 91 per cent of business accounts.
Ulster Bank has been reducing branch services on a phased basis since its withdrawal was announced in early 2021 and branch transactions have seen a 99 per cent reduction since then. Fewer than 5 per cent of known vulnerable customers typically use the branch network currently, it said.
The bank launched an initial redundancy programme last November to cut 600 jobs, or the equivalent of 25 per cent of its then workforce. Of those, 450 related to employees across the 63 branches. A similar number of staff have been transferring to AIB, Permanent TSB and the latter’s loan servicing partner, Pepper Finance, on a phased basis alongside loan purchases.
Ulster Bank is expected to launch further redundancy rounds over the next two years.