Union anger with five jobs at risk in Ulster Bank asset finance arm
Five jobs are at risk in an asset finance business linked to Ulster Bank, it has emerged.
The size of the team at Lombard Asset Finance in Belfast is being reduced from seven to two.
According to the Financial Services Union, Lombard Asset Finance - also owned by Royal Bank of Scotland - lent around £100m in 2016 and 2017, with an emphasis on agricultural and agri-business firms.
A spokesman for Ulster Bank said: "As part of our ongoing efforts to build a strong and sustainable bank, we are making some changes within the Lombard Asset Finance team in Northern Ireland.
"These changes are necessary to simplify our business model so we can deliver a service that is both competitive and sustainable for our Northern Ireland customers."
But trade union the Financial Services Union said it was opposed to the restructure and said it could affect the quality of services to customers of Lombard, with many queries to be dealt with through a call centre in England.
"This proposal completely flies in the face of the RBS rhetoric of seeking to be number one for customer service, trust and advocacy," it said.
"Leaving just two staff to manage relationships and support borrowers across all of Northern Ireland is simply not good enough for customers and communities.
"Under the proposal borrowers under a certain exposure limit will not have access to face-to-face advice and support. This business will be dealt with through a call centre in England."
It's understood some of the five will be offered alternative posts within Ulster Bank and that Lombard will continue to offer asset finance in Northern Ireland.
It's believed the bank recognises the importance of asset finance to agriculture customers, small business and entrepreneurs.
But the FSU spokesman said: "The five staff affected are obviously devastated. They are doing their best to find other opportunities but it's simply not a fair or reasonable proposal from Lombard and its RBS parent.
"It is also going to leave two staff in a very vulnerable situation servicing such a large geographic area. We have called on the employer to review their proposals and retain at least two additional staff.
"We welcome the support we've received and would urge Lombard and RBS to listen to the views of customers and other stakeholders."