The Central Bank said 38 per cent of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland accounts that were open at the end of 2021 have been closed over the first 10 months of this year, as both exiting banks push customers to find new homes for the banking.
Of the 464,998 accounts that were closed, about half were current accounts and the remainder made up of deposit accounts, according to the regulator.
Meanwhile, 800,325 accounts were opened across remaining three banks in the Republic – Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB – over the period, double the level of activity they saw during 2021.
There is typically a lag between consumers setting up new accounts and closing existing ones, as they seek to make sure that new details for the likes of direct-debit mandates, standing orders and inward payments are working properly.
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Ulster Bank started in April to give customers six months’ notice to find another home for their current and deposit accounts. It subsequently extended the deadline for the first wave of affected customers and will start freezing accounts from Friday, initially focusing on accounts that are inactive or where there are fewer than five transactions a month.
While KBC Bank Ireland has agreed to sell its deposits to Bank of Ireland as part of a deal that also involves the transfer of its €9 billion of performing loans, the Belgian-owned bank will start freezing current accounts from December.
“The forced migration of such a large volume of customer accounts is unprecedented in the Irish market, and has required an unprecedented response by banks and other financial service providers and commercial entities to ensure that it is managed properly for the customers affected, who have not chosen to be in this position,” said Colm Kincaid, director of consumer protection at the Central Bank.
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“The continued progress shown in the data we are publishing today is encouraging as we enter the next part of the exercise with the departing banks commencing their process of closing accounts on a phased basis.”
Mr Kincaid said the regulator is seeking to ensure with its engagement with the department banks “that no customer account is closed until all and every reasonable measure has been taken to ensure that the customer has been enabled to switch”.
“We understand that for many people, switching their account may not be a priority in the run-up to Christmas, but we continue to encourage people to take action sooner rather than later to ensure they move their banking arrangements to retain the level of banking service they need,” he said. “If you are having any difficulty in moving your banking arrangements, you can contact your bank which is required to support you through this transition.”