New PTSB chief cuts mortgage rates as Avantcard eyes market

Lender also narrows gap favouring new borrowers over existing customers

Permanent TSB's (PTSB) new chief executive, Eamonn Crowley, is rejigging the lender's mortgage offering by cutting its standard variable rate for the first time in six years and removing much of the advantage new customers have over existing borrowers when fixing rates for a period.

The development comes as Spanish bank Bankinter's Leitrim-based finance company, Avantcard, announced on Tuesday it would offer mortgages in Ireland from the autumn through brokers – becoming the first overseas-owned lender to enter the market since Danske Bank's ill-fated takeover of National Irish Bank in 2005.

PTSB will cut its standard variable rate next week for all customers to 3.95 per cent from 4.5 per cent, a rate that has ranked alongside Bank of Ireland’s as the highest in a market where mortgage costs are the fourth-highest in the euro zone.

The average new loan rate in the Republic was almost 2.9 per cent in May, more than double the euro-zone average, according to the Central Bank. This is partly down to the higher level of expensive capital that Irish banks must hold as a legacy of the scale of the domestic arrears crisis following the crash.


Up to €250,000

Irish banks have been pushing fixed rates over variable rate products in recent years. PTSB is also cutting fixed rates available to existing customers to match those being offered to new customers on loans of up to €250,000. But customers on existing fixed-rate products will have to wait until after the maturity of their current fixed term.

Meanwhile, new customers taking out mortgages of more than €250,000 will still be offered more favourable rates than existing PTSB clients – as low as 2.5 per cent for three-year terms.

“This move goes a long way to addressing the discrepancy which traditionally existed between our pricing for new and existing mortgage customers,” said Mr Crowley, who took over the helm last month. “We will continue to evolve our mortgage pricing strategy in this direction as we go forward in line with our ambition to further build trust with customers.”

PTSB, once the largest home loans provider in the Republic, rebuilt its share of new mortgage lending to 15.5 per cent last year from a crisis-era low of 2 per cent.

Non-bank lenders

The market had become the preserve of five retail banks, led by AIB and Bank of Ireland, after the crash as Danske Bank, Bank of Scotland and a number of subprime lenders retreated and Irish Nationwide Building Society collapsed.

The planned market entry by Avantcard, a specialist in credit cards and personal loans that traces its roots back to the establishment of MBNA Europe in Ireland in 1997, would add to a growing number of non-bank lenders, including Dilosk and Finance Ireland, that have targeted Irish mortgage lending in recent years.

An Post has eyed the market, though plans for a launch of products in the first half of the year were hit by the economic fallout from Covid-19, which has seen loan approvals slump and lenders start to set aside money to cover an expected surge of bad loans.

There was speculation at the time of Bankinter’s acquisition of Avantcard in June 2019 that it might look to link up with An Post to offer home loans, as Avantcard already had a consumer finance relationship with the postal company.

However, in an interview with The Irish Times two months later, Avantcard chief executive Chris Paul said such a move was never on the agenda.

Asked on Tuesday what had changed, Mr Paul said the company had seen “how under-served customers are when it comes to mortgages”.

"So, with our knowledge of the Irish market and the backing of our parent company, Bankinter, this was the natural next step in the evolution of Avantcard," he added.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter