Cantillon: It’s not looking good for Ulster Bank

Institution has about 5,800 staff

The next five weeks will determine the future size and structure of Ulster Bank. On February 27th, UK parent Royal Bank of Scotland will publish its annual results and is expected to outline the results of its strategic review.

The next five weeks will determine the future size and structure of Ulster Bank. On February 27th, UK parent Royal Bank of Scotland will publish its annual results and is expected to outline the results of its strategic review.

 

The next five weeks will determine the future size and structure of Ulster Bank. On February 27th, UK parent Royal Bank of Scotland will publish its annual results and is expected to outline the results of its strategic review.

RBS has already, in conjunction with the UK government, its majority shareholder, decided that £38 billion (€46 billion) of assets that are dragging on its performance will be placed into an internal bad bank. This includes £9 billion of assets at Ulster Bank, net of impairment provisions.

It’s roughly half and half what Ulster Bank’s management previously considered to be core and non-core assets, and covers corporate and commercial real estate lending. These will be run down by the end of 2016 and about 300 staff at Ulster Bank are affected by this plan.

Ulster Bank staff were told yesterday that Joy McAdam, who had led the Irish division of RBS’s global restructuring group, will return to London within three months. She will be replaced by a head of RBS capital resolution for Ireland. Basically, this person will oversee the bad bank asset wind-down.

What of the rest of the bank? Up to 100 positions at its retail collections unit are under immediate threat of being relocated to Edinburgh. An announcement could be made next week. Most of the jobs are in Sandyford in Dublin, with some in the North. These are people dealing with arrears in mortgages and other loans.

The big bang could come next month, when the results of the strategic review are announced. Ulster Bank has about 5,800 staff on the island and the Irish Bank Officials’ Association warned its members last week that radical changes could be coming, including compulsory redundancies, outsourcing, pay cuts and branch closures.

In spite of some good restructuring work over the past few years by local management, led by chief executive Jim Brown, it continues to be bleed losses. It made a loss of £461 million for the nine months to the end of September 2013, down from £797 million a year earlier.

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