Business Irish

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Good news for bankers but it won't help the humble customer

Published 16/11/2013 | 02:00

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MERRILL Lynch. State Street. BNP Paribas. JP Morgan. And now Deutsche Bank.

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All are massive, market-moving international banks, and all have big operations in Ireland.

They are here for three main reasons: our highly skilled English-speaking workforce, low corporation tax and membership of the euro.

Plus the investment banks are safe from domestic problems like the mortgage arrears crisis because they sell to clients around the world.

But despite the good news that Deutsche is expanding here, it won't in fact be doing business here. Its 1,000-plus workers will be working with international clients – and international money.

So our cup runneth over when it comes to international investment banks. What's harder to find is an open branch of a retail bank, where consumers can perform a routine lodgment or money transfer.

Because even as international commercial banks clamour at our door, high-street banks are leaving in droves.

Rabobank and Danske both announced they were abandoning Ireland in recent months. A sluggish Irish economy means the country is just not a viable option for these companies any more. The crisis forced out EBS and Halifax, too.

The end result of this exodus is that competition is reduced, meaning consumers have less and less choice over where they bank. This gives the remaining few still standing – chiefly AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster and Permanent TSB – more power to introduce harsher charges.

The Government has been accused again and again of favouring multinationals at the expense of small businesses. Nothing emphasises that message more than struggling to find a bank branch open in Dublin even as another global giant announces it is setting up shop here.

The one bright spot for ordinary banking customers is KBC, which said yesterday it was committed to opening more Irish branches despite incurring a massive loss from non-performing Irish loans.

Lets hope its resolve doesn't wobble.

Irish Independent

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