Statement by Minister Donohoe following NatWest’s annual results and decision taken on the future of Ulster Bank in Ireland

19th February, 2021

Speaking this morning (Friday) following the announcement by National Westminster Bank plc (NatWest) that Ulster Bank Ireland DAC (Ulster Bank) is to withdraw from the Irish market, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, said it is a difficult day from an Irish banking perspective, and also for the Ulster Bank staff who are receiving news of this development.


He went on to say, however, that the reference made by NatWest, with respect to Ulster Bank’s future, to early stage discussions with PTSB and other strategic banking counterparties about their potential interest in certain retail and SME assets, liabilities and operations, along with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with AIB regarding certain corporate and commercial loans, signals a potentially important development for the Irish banking sector.


Speaking following the announcement, Minister Donohoe said: ‘The decision by NatWest, the parent of Ulster Bank, to exit the Irish market is a very significant event. After 160 years serving the Irish public, today marks a sad day. Our thoughts too are with the Ulster Bank staff as they learn of the closure of the bank here in Ireland’.


“However, I welcome the reference made this morning to the two other Irish banks, PTSB and AIB, who are engaging with NatWest regarding the future of Ulster Bank’s SME, mortgage, retail and commercial loan books, as well as the current and deposit accounts held by the Bank. While this is positive news and indicates the potential further development of already well established Irish banks, there is still much work to be done over the coming months’.


“It must be remembered that neither the Government nor I have any role in commercial decisions such as these and that any decision of this nature is a matter for the banks and their boards, who remain independent.


“Reassurance is also given to customers of Ulster Bank that robust consumer protections are in place in the event of the bank withdrawing from the Irish market, including the Central Bank’s codes of conduct and that the terms of any contract currently in place with Ulster Bank remains in place into the future.


“I also welcome the announcement regarding Ulster Bank staff which outlines that some staff will transfer to AIB in line with the MoU that has been agreed with that bank. The commitment to engage with staff to minimise the impact on them is also to be welcomed   I expect that Ulster Bank will fully engage with staff in an open and transparent manner as the process moves forward.’


“The Irish banking landscape will be poorer for the loss of Ulster Bank after all these years but we will focus now on the future and what can be done to support and strengthen a competitive and stable Irish banking system for the future.”