Ulster Bank keeps branches ‘under review’ as cashless outlets double

Bank to update Oireachtas committee on overcharging issue that will result in €38m paidout

Ulster Bank’s interim chief executive, Paul Stanley, will update the Oireachtas finance committee on Tuesday on a range of issues concerning the lender. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Ulster Bank executives will tell the Oireachtas finance committee on Tuesday that the size of its branch network remains "under constant review" as customers' habits rely increasingly on online and mobile banking, after closing a fifth of its remaining outlets in the Republic last year.

"Over the last few years we have seen huge change in the way our customers are choosing to do their banking," chief financial officer and interim chief executive Paul Stanley will tell the committee, according to an opening address prepared for the meeting and seen by The Irish Times. "Importantly, we expect this type of change to continue."

Ulster Bank, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland, cut its number of branches in the Republic by 22 to 88 last year, having had 190 locations before the crisis. This included offices that carried the First Active brand, which was axed in 2010.

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank said it planned to double its number of branches without tellers to 10 by the end of the year, and that the prospect of more so-called cashless branches was under review.


Overcharging issue

Ulster Bank will also brief the committee on a business customers overcharging issue that it confirmed last week, and which will result in €38 million in refunds and compensation being paid out.

The issue involves 18,000 customer accounts who are due an average of up to €2,000 in redress and compensation, the bank has said. While Ulster Bank wrote to customers in 2012 informing them that it planned to change the definition of the base – or so-called cost of funds – off which business loans are set, customer contracts entered into before 2006 did not allow for this amendment.

The hearing will be Ulster Bank’s first appearance before the committee since it conceded in March that up to an additional 2,000 of its customers were impacted by the country’s tracker-mortgage scandal. It brings the bank’s total number of customers hit by the controversy to almost 5,500.

‘Human error’

Mr Stanley will reiterate that an issue involving the temporary disappearance of money, including monthly salaries, from customers’ accounts in late April “was the result of a human error and not related to an IT systems failure”, according to the prepared statement.

“To ensure no customer was left out of pocket, we refunded all fees and charges applied on all customer accounts for the day the issue occurred.”

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times