Belfast Telegraph

Cash exodus as Northern Ireland banks see customers move their accounts to rivals in UK

By John Mulgrew

Almost 5,000 people have moved their current accounts from Northern Ireland's four big banks to larger UK rivals - such as Halifax and Santander - in just three months.

And more than 10 times as many Ulster Bank customers moved their current account away from the bank over the first quarter of the year, than created new accounts, according to the latest figures from the Current Account Switch Service.

The bank was mired in controversy in 2012 after hundreds of thousands of customers were left without access to their cash for days.

Almost 1,800 moved their accounts elsewhere, while just 168 moved their current accounts over to the Royal Bank of Scotland owned bank.

Meanwhile, Bank of Ireland lost more than 950 customers, while only gaining 330, and AIG Group - which includes First Trust - lost more than 1,000.

More than 1,000 customers moved their accounts from Danske Bank to other financiers, while it gained more than 400 new accounts, using the switching service.

The data shows the number of customers who bank with Northern Ireland's big four banks, and have moved their accounts elsewhere using the seven-day service.

It's aimed at making the transition easier for customers, allowing consumers to shop around for the best deal on offer.

The service has cut the length of time it takes to switch a current account from up to 30 working days to just seven.

In the 12 months from to September this year, more than one million bank customers switched their current accounts across the UK.

That figure was down slightly from the year previous.

Across the UK, it's Halifax and Santander which have come out on top.

Some 60,000 customers moved to Halifax during the same period - more than double the number which switched their account elsewhere.

But Santander gained 85,000 new customers during the first quarter of 2015. That's more than four times the number the bank lost in those choosing to go elsewhere.

Economist John Simpson said many customers were moving because of the publicity affecting some banks here.

"I suspect with our four banks, there may be a fair amount of switching between them and I could see a lot jumping to other Northern Ireland banks.

"We have had particularly bad publicity for our banks, with the strongest directed towards Ulster Bank.

"A lot of customers are watching and saying, the banks have not been as helpful as expected.

"Banks have had bad publicity, and if they wanted to get confidence back to their customers, they have been too complacent in how they have handled it.

"They are paying a high price for that, and Ulster Bank has taken the biggest proportion."

But he said despite that, the majority of customers were "sitting still" and not moving banks.

"Even with what has happened, the tendency is to sit still" he said.

"This is a fraction of a few percent. If I was a bank, I wouldn't want to lose them, but the majority will remain."

Belfast Telegraph