Union calls for action on ‘unrealistic’ banking timetable for Ireland exit plans

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The Financial Services Union (FSU) is calling on the Central Bank to convene a task force to oversee the exits of KBC and Ulster Bank from the Irish market, saying the proposed timetable is “unrealistic”.

SU officials are meeting with the Central Bank’s consumer protection chief Colm Kincaid on Thursday to push for a multi-stakeholder approach to handling bank withdrawals, the outflows of which will affect 400,000 customers.

“To date, the banks and their lobby group, the Irish Payments Banking Federation, have actively spoken out against a stakeholder approach, insisting for some months that they have taken the appropriate steps to prepare for the additional workload that will come with the exit of the two banks,” said FSU Chief Executive John O’Connell.

“This approach has resulted in huge customer dissatisfaction and annoyance and an overloaded and unusable system.”

KBC and Ulster Bank are giving customers a six-month notice period to close or transfer their accounts when their overseas owners exit the Irish market.

The Central Bank warned the two banks last month that they could not leave if they could not provide alternative banking services to their customers.

Although the departures of the two banks were confirmed in early 2021, the remaining national institutions – AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB – have been slow to add additional staff to cope with account changes, according to the FSU.

Ireland’s three banks agreed to acquire billions in large loan portfolios from exiting rivals, but customers with current accounts and deposits were largely left to manage the transition independently.

While the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has approved AIB’s purchase of Ulster Bank’s €4.2 billion business portfolio, it is still investigating Bank of Ireland’s bid for KBC mortgage loans and PTSB’s agreement to buy Ulster Bank’s SME loan portfolio. AIB is also in negotiations for Ulster Bank’s successful mortgage portfolio.

Next Monday, the Department of Finance is hosting a major stakeholder conference as part of its review of the retail banking sector, which was launched last year after sustained lobbying by the FSU.

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