BoI to take on British giants and enter mortgage market
Bank of Ireland plans to become the leading challenger to Britain's high street goliaths, Barclays and Lloyds, and capture a significant part of Britain's booming €133bn-plus-a-year mortgage market.
Head of Bank of Ireland's British arm, Des Crowley, has insisted that the Irish institution can become the viable alternative to Britain's established high street banks.
Bank of Ireland sealed a joint venture with the Post Office 10 years ago, but more recently has been keen to expand the number of services it can offer customers. It's been introducing current accounts and plans to offer three different such accounts to customers in the near future, according to Mr Crowley.
"We want to be their leading challenger, providing simple, transparent, accessible products to consumers right across Britain as an alternative to the high street banks," Mr Crowley told the London 'Telegraph' yesterday.
He said that 20 million people walk through the doors of the Post Office every week.
"We spent a lot of time making sure the balance sheet was properly put in place and that we were positioned for growth, and we have been driving hard with the Post Office to get that growth," said Mr Crowley.
"Our key advantage is that we have got a branch network that we feel can generate significant customer traffic."
Bank of Ireland – the only domestically-owned bank to escape full ownership by the taxpayer during the financial meltdown – is also planning to introduce financial advisers to some British Post Office branches. But Mr Crowley has insisted the bank will remain cautious in its mortgage lending policies in Britain.
"We have a philosophy of 'clean credit'. We are very anxious to give money to people who are self-employed first-time buyers, but one of our requirements is that you have a clean credit history for the past three years," he said. "We have never gone into sub-prime, or near-prime. That was never part of the DNA of the bank."
Last week, ratings agency Fitch downgraded its outlook on Bank of Ireland's British unit from 'stable' to 'negative'.
The bank currently has a €25bn mortgage book in Britain compared to €27bn in Ireland.
Recent data from Britain shows that gross mortgage lending rose 43pc year on year in February to £15.2bn (€18.4bn).