Ulster Bank to withdraw more branch services as it prepares to exit Irish market

Bank to tell customers they have six months to close their accounts

An Ulster Bank branch in Raheny, Dublin. The bank will communicate with customers shortly about its plans to withdraw personal banking services this year. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ulster Bank is to close all its branches for normal transactions during lunchtime, completely pause its new mortgage business, withdraw foreign exchange services and stop offering a night safe option to businesses in the weeks ahead as it prepares for its exit from the Irish market.

The bank will communicate the changes to hundreds of thousands of its customers in the coming weeks as part of what it said was a six-month notice period to “choose-move-close” bank accounts.

The first changes will impact its mortgage business. Last October Ulster Bank ceased all new business for personal customers, with some exceptions.

One such exception allowed existing Ulster Bank customers to continue to apply for a mortgage. However, from June 10th, the bank will close to new mortgage applications from existing customers and from April 29th it will no longer offer approval in principle for existing customers.

READ MORE

That means, from June 10th, the only personal banking new business available will be the servicing of existing customers to switch rates or avail of offset and modified tracker mortgages and, on an exceptional basis, emergency, temporary overdraft, or credit card limit increases.

Branch services

From the start of July the bank will close the counters in all branches from 1pm with staff remaining in the open branch to concentrate on face-to-face choose-move-close assistance for customers. Opening hours will remain the same.

It will also cease to offer foreign exchange cash and FX drafts, although customers will still be able to lodge foreign cheques. And on the same day it will no longer offer night safe services.

It will begin writing to all customers in tranches in the near future “to help to facilitate orderly account switching and new account opening across the industry and to avoid a single closure date for customers and the industry”.

It said customers would not be obliged to take any action until they hear from the bank.

John O’Connell, general secretary of the Financial Services Union, described the announcement by Ulster Bank as “reckless”, arguing that the remaining banks in the market do not have the capacity to cope with a huge influx of new customers.

“The FSU has called for a transparent process to be initiated across all the banks, which allows customers the opportunity to switch their accounts in a timely manner with the appropriate level of support and staffing levels to meet customers’ expectations,” he said.

“No letters should issue from Ulster Bank until everyone is confident the system can cope with the additional pressures and workload and adequate resources and staff are in place to protect customers and businesses.”

Ulster Bank has about 360,000 active personal current accounts as well as 300,000 personal deposit accounts. It also has around 255,000 additional personal and deposit accounts that have little to no transactions.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor