Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland has said customers will see no change when the lender is brought fully under the wing of its parent company next year.
he lender has been gradually coming completely under the control of owner NatWest Group, based in Scotland and formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, since around 2016.
That year, the bank’s operation in the Republic was separated from the business in Northern Ireland.
Last month it emerged that NatWest was considering winding down the operation in the Republic.
Now a note from ratings agency Fitch has revealed that the transfer of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland to NatWest will take place on May 3 next year.
Newspaper the Business Post revealed that NatWest Group has applied to the High Court in Belfast to transfer the Northern Ireland business to the main NatWest Bank.
The note from Fitch Ratings in London said: “Once the transfer takes place, Fitch will likely withdraw Ulster Bank Limited’s ratings as it will cease to exist as a meaningful entity.”
An Ulster Bank spokesman said: “This change simplifies our structure and reporting framework.
“Ulster Bank’s customers in Northern Ireland will continue to benefit from scaled innovation, product improvements and investment. The Ulster Bank brand will continue as it does today across our branches, products, services and online and mobile apps.”
He said that there will be “no change” for customers. The transfer is expected to simplify NatWest Group’s legal structure, governance and costs.
However, the Ulster Bank brand will be maintained across branches, products, services and online and mobile apps.
Customers bank account numbers and cards will be the same, as well as their access to products and services, and banking channels.
Fitch Ratings said that the proposed transfer of business did not affect the ratings of Ulster Bank Limited, NatWest Bank or NatWest Group.
Ulster Bank representatives in the Republic met its Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last month. Following the meeting, the finance department said: “Ulster Bank confirmed that the strategic review is ongoing and 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.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in September, the bank’s Northern Ireland boss Mark Crimmins said he was concerned that the impact of Covid-19 on the economy would not become evident for some time.
“I think we haven’t really seen the impact of it all just yet. But quarter four and the first quarter of next year as Christmas passes will be the real telling times.”
He said the bank had lent out £300m across 10,000 customers since the outset of the pandemic, “and that is just purely what you would call Covid crisis money”.
Firms in hospitality including drink-only pubs were most at risk, he said.