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‘No decision yet’ on Ulster Bank’s future, bosses tell Finance Minster

Speculation persists over the future of Ulster Bank’s Irish operations, which employ some 2,800 people.

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The bank is currently undertaking a strategic review of its Irish outlets (PA)

The bank is currently undertaking a strategic review of its Irish outlets (PA)

The bank is currently undertaking a strategic review of its Irish outlets (PA)

Ulster Bank has told the Government that “no decision has yet been taken” on the future of its Irish operations.

The bank is currently undertaking a strategic review of its Irish outlets and speculation persists that parent company NatWest is actively considering winding down the business.

During a virtual meeting with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe on Wednesday, bank bosses said there was no timeline for the review’s completion.

Following the meeting, Mr Donohoe “expressed concern” about the question marks hanging over the bank’s future and asked that staff be kept informed of any developments.

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Finance Minister Paschal Donhoe held a virtual meeting with the bank’s bosses (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Finance Minister Paschal Donhoe held a virtual meeting with the bank’s bosses (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

PA

Finance Minister Paschal Donhoe held a virtual meeting with the bank’s bosses (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

A spokesperson for the minister said: “Minister Donohoe expressed concern about the ongoing speculation about the bank’s future here in Ireland.

“He emphasised the importance of Ulster Bank to the Irish financial services market, to the wider economy and to the communities it serves.

“He pointed to Ulster Bank’s long history and important heritage here in Ireland.”

Ulster Bank employs around 2,800 staff across 88 branches in Ireland.

Mr Donohoe outlined his concerns during the meeting with the chair of the board of Ulster Bank, Ruairi O’Flynn, CEO Jane Howard and CFO Paul Stanley.

The spokesperson added: “The minister outlined that staff, customers and other stakeholders must be informed promptly about any decisions being made.

“In particular, he expects that staff representatives will be consulted and kept informed of developments.”

The Department of Finance said Ulster Bank confirmed that the strategic review is ongoing.

Ulster Bank “assured the minister that no decision has yet been taken”.

“Ulster Bank also confirmed that there is no set timetable for this review and that it is fully aware of the strategically important role that Ulster Bank plays in the provision of financial services to the Irish market,” the spokesperson said.

Today’s meeting between the Minister for Finance and Ulster Bank while welcome has led to little clarity for staff or the communities they serveLabour Party finance spokesman Ged Nash

Labour Party finance spokesman Ged Nash criticised the lack of clarity provided for staff at the bank.

He said: “Today’s meeting between the Minister for Finance and Ulster Bank while welcome has led to little clarity for staff or the communities they serve.

“The truth is we now know as much about Ulster Bank’s intentions in Ireland as we did before the meeting took place.

“The announcement last month of NatWest’s review alarmed staff, the Financial Services Union and Ulster Bank’s customers across the country.”

Mr Nash queried if the minister had raised reports that the US investment firm Cerberus is considering an approach for Ulster Bank’s 20.5 billion euro loan book in the Republic.

He said: “This strategic review is all the more alarming given recent reports that a vulture fund, Cerberus Capital Management, is now circling Ulster Bank’s loan book.

“The minister must clarify whether he issued a hands-off warning in today’s meeting with the head of Ulster Bank, given the scarring experience of Irish home and business owners at the hands of such funds in recent years.”

He added that any decision to close the Irish branches would be “a smack in the face of loyal Ulster Bank staff”.

A spokesperson for NatWest said: “We had a constructive meeting and an important discussion today with the Minister for Finance who is a key stakeholder in the review underway.

“Our priority  is to continue to remain focussed on supporting our colleagues in serving our customers in these difficult times.”

Online Editors


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