Cantillon: return to normalisation in Irish banking

Last week AIB handed over cheque to the Government for €1.64bn

PTSB has announced a move into SME lending by launching its first suite of new banking products since the 2008 crash

PTSB has announced a move into SME lending by launching its first suite of new banking products since the 2008 crash

 

There have been various signals this year of a return to normalisation in Irish banking. Early in the year, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank all announced a return to full-year profitability for the first time since the crash in 2008.

Just last week AIB handed over a cheque to the Government for €1.64 billion as the first repayment of capital from the €20.8 billion in bailout money it received from taxpayers.

AIB has also cut its standard variable mortgage rate twice this year, something that would have been unimaginable just two years ago when it was all about protecting margins.

These moves were partly the result of political pressure on what are perceived to be rip-off rates when compared with other euro zone countries, but it also reflected a strategic decision by AIB to compete aggressively with rivals for market share.

Permanent TSB returned to a main market listing after an IPO in April that netted the State €508.5 million as it reduced its holding in the bank to 75 per cent. Yesterday, PTSB announced a move into SME lending by launching its first suite of new banking products since the 2008 crash.

The recent sale by Ulster Bank of its Project Clear portfolio to a group comprising Cairn Homes and US-based investor Lone Star means it has largely completed the sell-off of the toxic property and commercial loans that led it to requiring a £15 billion bailout from its UK parent, Royal Bank of Scotland.

And there was good news for Bank of Ireland staff yesterday with a recommendation from a third-party mediator that staff should receive a pay rise of 2.2 per cent next year and 2.65 per cent in 2017.

The recommendation has to go to ballot in the new year but it seems certain to go through and could help to strengthen the hand of the Irish Bank Official’s Association as it negotiates with AIB to secure a pay increase for its staff next year.

Profits, IPOs, interest rate cuts, new products and pay rises.

Next thing you’ll know, they’ll be offering bonuses again...er, I mean retention payments.

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