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Rivals line up to pick off assets as Ulster Bank winds up in Republic

Digital banks and traditional lenders hoping to win new customers during NatWest's phased withdrawal

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A sign outside the Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A sign outside the Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

A sign outside the Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The scramble to win business from Ulster Bank in the Republic has kicked off following the announcement by its owner, NatWest Group, that it will begin a phased withdrawal from Ireland.

The move does not affect Ulster Bank's operations in Northern Ireland.

Although it was confirmed that state-backed AIB and Permanent TSB were both in negotiations for some of Ulster Bank's loan book and assets in the Republic, other operators across the wider financial sector now believe they can win over Ulster Bank customers.

Chris Paul, chief executive of Avant Money, which has already shaken up the Irish mortgage market with low interest rates, told the Sunday Independent that even more Ulster Bank customers may now switch their mortgages due to its decision to depart.

Ulster Bank customers may feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and will "shop around" with brokers, he said.

"I suspect we will see more going forward - Avant will, and I think AIB, Bank of Ireland, PTSB, KBC will."

Digital bank Revolut said it is anticipating further growth in new users due to Ulster Bank's departure.

Michael Russell, a communications manager with Revolut, said it was "seeing well over 1,000 new Irish users per day" and it now has more than 1.3 million customers in Ireland.

On Friday, Ulster Bank owner NatWest announced its decision to depart the Republic of Ireland market following a strategic review. A non-binding agreement had been reached with AIB over a €4bn portfolio of commercial loans, it said.

NatWest also confirmed it was in early-stage talks with PTSB, and others, about their potential interest in buying certain retail and SME assets.

Ulster Bank CEO Jane Howard said the decision by NatWest to withdraw from Ireland was "hugely disappointing".

"It will be a difficult and worrying time for our colleagues across the bank," she said. "It may also lead to customer questions and concerns as to how this decision may impact them and their day-to-day banking needs."

Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland is in contrast being brought more fully into the NatWest Group. Customers have been told they will see no change when the process is completed on May 3.

The lender has been gradually coming completely under the control of owner NatWest Group, based in Scotland and formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, since around 2015.

That year, the operation in the Republic was separated from the business in Northern Ireland.

In November. NatWest Group has applied to the High Court in Belfast to transfer the Northern Ireland business to the main NatWest Bank.

An Ulster Bank spokesman said at the time: "This change simplifies our structure and reporting framework. Ulster Bank's customers in NI will continue to benefit from scaled innovation, product improvements and investment. The Ulster Bank brand will continue as it does today across our branches, products, services and online and mobile apps." He said that there will be "no change" for customers. The transfer is expected to simplify NatWest Group's legal structure, governance and costs.

Belfast Telegraph


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