Brendan Smith: Customers need extended time-frame before Ulster Bank and KBC exit State

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has called for an immediate extended time-frame to allow customers of Ulster Bank and KBC to open new accounts with other financial institutions before the two departing banks exit the state.

Speaking in the Dáil on the matter, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “Ulster Bank proposes to exit this State next March and KBC proposes to do the same the following August. This does not seem to be a realistic timeframe, due to the challenging logistics for those two banks’ customers transferring their accounts to other financial institutions. I hear daily of the frustration and worries of customers of Ulster Bank and KBC who are trying to open new accounts elsewhere.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “The Financial Services Union has quite rightly pointed out that all retail banks have significantly reduced their personnel and their branch network over recent years, which has resulted in much poorer services for their customers. Bank staff are under enormous pressures. The remaining banks need to increase their staff levels substantially to ensure an orderly transfer of accounts.” 

Deputy Smith concluded: “Can the Government and the Department of Finance, in particular, engage with the financial regulator with a view to the establishment of an oversight committee that is inclusive of all relevant stakeholders to deal with all issues, including the timeframe for the exit of those two banks?”

In response, Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe stated: “For some time, he (Deputy Brendan Smith) has been raising issues in relation to the withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the Irish banking sector. There is already a huge amount of engagement under way with regard to the important issue the Deputy has raised. In recent days, the Central Bank has met with the banks that are involved in exiting our market, as well as the banks that will be expected to provide new accounts for new customers. They are emphasising the importance of this being done in an orderly way. I have engaged with the banks on this matter because I recognise that from a consumer point of view, this is a moment of huge change.”

The Minister added: “At a retail banking forum that the Department of Finance organised last week in Carlow, which was attended by the regulator and all of our banks, post offices and credit unions, I made the point in public to everybody that we need this transition to go well. We will continue to follow up on this matter.