Fears in Donegal over reported Ulster Bank plans that it may leave Irish market

Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank has announced a series of measures to assist customers in the face of the coronavirus crisis

Fears are emerging in Donegal that three branches of the Ulster Bank in Donegal Town, Ballybofey and Letterkenny could soon form part of plans for the bank to exit the Irish market.

According to The Irish Times, the UK group is "actively considering winding down" Ulster Bank operations in the 26 counties and is undertaking a strategic review of the business.

According to the report,  although a buyer might yet emerge and 75% government-owned Permanent TSB has long been mentioned as a possible candidate this is, apparently, the "less likely outcome".

Recently the bank announced plans to get rid of about 266 jobs north and south of the border.

CEO of the Ulster Bank, Jane Howard told its 2,800-strong staff on Friday that “all strategic options” remain on the table, after The Irish Times reported that its UK parent is actively considering winding down the lender, which continues to struggle with low profitability more than a decade after the financial crisis.

She referred to the parent group NatWest’s CEO, Alison Rose, to analysts in August that while the strategy of growing Ulster Bank “hasn’t changed”, Covid-19 “presents different challenges to the economy, and we will continue to consider all strategic options in relation to that business”.

“That position has not changed. It’s important to emphasise to your colleagues and to customers that we have seen commentary like this before and this, like previous stories, is also speculative,” Ms Howard said in a note to staff.

“I know that it can be distracting but I would ask that you please stay focused on serving our customers well," the Irish Times reported.

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