The Irish Times view on competition in the banking market

The latest move by Revolut suggests that competition for business is picking up - the local banks need to build on their customer relationships to safeguard their position

The speed at which Revolut has grown its Irish operation has been, by any measure, remarkable and with its customer base here climbing from zero to around two million in less than eight years, it has disrupted the indigenous consumer-focused financial sector in an unprecedented manner.

By announcing plans to offer its Irish customer base localised Iban numbers – unique account identifiers under the Single European Payments Directive (Sepa) – it has signposted that its aggressive campaign against the State’s traditional banks is, if anything, stepping up a gear.

Its local competitors would do well to take the threat seriously while bearing in mind that Revolut is not a singular enemy, with other fintech players such as German-based N26 and the Dutch company Bunq also competing hard for customers and their money.

The fintechs are winning people over with an alluring offering which promises lower charges, more user-friendly interfaces and features including share and crypto trading, junior accounts and saving vaults, most of which traditional banks do not offer. They can operate on a low cost base and leverage technology in use in other markets to try to cherry pick business here.


That is not to say the game is up for the home-grown banks. Their online services are improving and with the joint venture by AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB to facilitate instantaneous person-to-person transfers coming down the tracks, they will be better able to compete with key parts of the fintech offering.

Irish banks also have vital advantages over fintechs – customer loyalty and a physical footprint in communities all over the country as well as staff who can offer customer care and a personalised experience that start-ups simply cannot match.

They would do well to leverage that long-standing relationship and do more to put their customers front and centre across all channels in the years ahead. Branch banking has suffered from successive cutbacks, but it surely remains part of the competitive offering of domestic banks.