Less than a quarter of the current and deposit accounts that were open at the beginning of the year in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank had been closed by the end of August despite both banks preparing to leave the Irish market, the Central Bank has said.
As part of its ongoing work to supervise the withdrawal of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market, the Central Bank has published the first in a new series of statistics on bank account migration, showing the trends in account closures and openings.
The data is based on information provided by both banks and the three largest remaining retail banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB.
A total of 292,996 accounts have been closed by customers in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank in the year to end-August. Of these, 140,573 were current accounts and 152,423 were deposit accounts.
In total, 24 per cent of the current and deposit accounts that were open at the beginning of the year in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank had been closed by end-August 2022. The data also shows that the pace of account closures has accelerated in recent weeks.
Some 600,311 accounts were opened in the three main remaining banks in the first eight months of the year.
The majority of these were current accounts (434,166). This is about 46 per cent higher than the number of accounts opened by this group of banks in the first eight months of previous years.
The number of active credit and debit cards held by customers of the exiting banks declined by 21 per cent since the beginning of 2021.
Of the total new accounts opened in the first eight months of 2022, 56 per cent were opened online, while the remainder were opened in a branch. The average waiting time for a branch appointment was eight working days at end-August.
Central Bank director of consumer protection Colm Kincaid said “more remains to be done” to improve the experience of customers moving their account, and “for too many customers that experience has not been satisfactory”.
“In particular, banks need to continue to increase resources and improve processes and training in order to equip their staff to meet the challenges this exercise presents,” he added.
Separately, KBC Bank Ireland is to close its hub network in six months’ time ahead of its withdrawal from the Irish market.
The transfer of customer products to Bank of Ireland is expected to happen in early 2023 and all KBC hubs will remain open until that point.
KBC hubs in Galway; Limerick; Lapps Quay, Cork; Wilton Shopping Centre, Cork; Waterford; Maynooth; Main Street, Swords; Blanchardstown Shopping Centre; College Green, Dublin; Baggot Street, Dublin; and Stillorgan will close permanently on March 10th, 2023.
The Grand Canal Dublin hub will remain open until the August 31st, 2023.
KBC said there will be no bank-wide redundancies in 2022 as a result of the announcement. A “small number of employees” in selected teams where work has concluded or significantly reduced will exit the bank through redundancy by the end of 2022.
KBC said its contact centre is the preferred choice for customers as 90 per cent of all customer service queries are handled through it and 97 per cent of active KBC current account customers are digitally enabled.
KBC said it has increased staff numbers significantly to support customers through this period of change. For example, the number of employees working in the service contact centre has doubled since the announcement of the agreement with Bank of Ireland.
However, John O’Connell, general secretary of the Financial Services Union, has called on the Central Bank to “urgently intervene” and inform Ulster Bank and KBC “that they need to extend their timelines for exiting the Irish retail banking market”.