Bank of Ireland told shareholders on Tuesday that the long-awaited customer rollout of its new mobile banking app, originally scheduled for 2019 and further delayed by the Covid-19 crisis, will take place later this month.
Company secretary Sarah McLaughlin told the company’s annual general meeting, where investors were required to dial in, that it had been forced to stall a planned launch of the app in March as it diverted resources to deal with the coronavirus impact on customers and its own business.
A spokesman for the bank clarified in response to questions that the app launch will be phased in from this month, initially for Android devices, followed by iPhones.
Ms McLaughlin said that “as operations in response to Covid have normalised”, the bank expects to launch the app “later this month”. The project, a key part of the group’s ongoing €1.15 billion IT overhaul programme, was initially rolled out on a pilot basis among staff in December 2019. The group had told investors at the launch of a three-year strategic plan in June 2018 that it would launch the app in the first half of last year.
The new app has increased functionality by 50 per cent, enhanced security controls and will, for the first time, allow customers to avail of a broader set of payment options, such as direct debit and standing order services, according to the bank. It previously said Apple Pay and Google Pay would not be available at the time of launch, but added during the course of 2020.
There has been speculation internally that the final cost for the project, which has been beset by leadership changes, may ultimately hit €2 billion.
However, the bank, led by chief executive Francesca McDonagh, has repeatedly said that it is committed to the €1.4 billion projected IT and restructuring bill up until the end.
The AGM, taking place a week after the group reported a first-quarter loss as a result of the Covid-19 economic crisis, was completed within 25 minutes, the shortest in recent memory for the bank.
The bank booked €421 million of charges during the quarter, mainly to cover an expected surge in bad loans and a drop in life insurance and investment fees as a result of the economic shock.
Bank of Ireland said in a trading update last week that it had extended loan payment breaks to 86,000 customers affected by the Covid-19 crisis in Ireland and the UK since the middle of March.