Business Irish

Saturday 25 February 2017

An Post now holds 10pc of savings as banks lose deposits

Semi-state took in €5.5bn since crisis began

Emmet Oliver

AN Post now controls more than 10pc of the savings market in Ireland after the state-owned bank benefited from unprecedented movements of deposits during the financial crisis, new figures show.

The mail operator has told the Government its market share has risen from 6.2pc at the outset of the financial crisis to 10.3pc now.

The company revealed the numbers in its submission to the Colm McCarthy-led review of the semi-states. A copy of the submission has been released under Freedom of Information.

An Post, which is profitable at an operating level after several years of re-organisation, had taken in more than €2.3bn by October of last year, while €3.2bn was lodged in 2008 and 2009 combined -- a total of €5.5bn. It is understood most of it was ordinary retail deposits.

With AIB, Anglo Irish, Irish Nationwide (and potentially Bank of Ireland) all in majority state ownership, complaints about these lenders taking a large slice of the savings market have receded.

The growth in the An Post savings book came during an awful year for Irish banks, with corporate deposits in particular flowing out in record amounts.

Ratings

This was driven by two factors: the need for an IMF/EU bailout in November and a lowering of credit ratings on Ireland which meant many company treasurers were not able to keep their money here any more.

Two of An Post's competitors for savings, AIB and NIB, both use the post office network to allow their customers do banking transactions.

The mail operator told UCD economist McCarthy that it stands ready to add more government and banking services across the country. In many cases its savings rates are lower than the Irish banks and the company said it was operating the savings service at lower cost than the commercial banks.

"Financial services in post offices remains a core part of corporate strategy," states the submission. "Expansion is part of strategic direction," it adds.

An Post offers a basic range of savings products, plus specialist offers aimed at pensioners and children. The NTMA also sells its savings investments through the An Post network.

An Post is also a major insurer, offering travel, house and car insurance through its One Direct subsidiary.

It increased its annual revenue in 2010, but profit margins are thin and it intends to reduce its workforce significantly over the next five years. The main challenge facing the company is electronic substitution -- consumers using internet and email more than traditional posting.

Irish Independent

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