Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Farmers told to think hard before changing banks

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

Farmers impacted by the closure of 16 ACCBank branches should not be too hasty in pulling the plug on their accounts.

IFA farm business chairman James Kane said that although other banks might welcome new customers, they might not be willing to take on new customers' existing loans.

Mr Kane, who was very vocal in his criticism of the branch closures when they were first announced, has urged farmers to exercise caution before they consider the move.

"Even if another bank is willing to take on the loan, this could end up costing the farmer a lot more in interest and I would advise farmers to consider any move very carefully," he warned.

He also said that it was critical for farmers to protect their credit rating as this would stand to them when dealing with their banks in times of financial difficulty.

ACCBank has already closed its branches in Tralee, Ennis, Nenagh, Ballina, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Tuam, Roscommon, Navan and Monaghan.

Branches in Cavan, Athlone, Tullamore, Dungarvan, Wexford and Clonmel are due to close between now and the middle of next month.

The bank has retained nine business centres in Cork, Dublin, Drogheda, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mullingar, Sligo and Waterford.

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An ACCBank spokesperson said its focus was now firmly rooted in dealing with food and agri customers, including commercial farmers.

"Each new business centre has a dedicated mobile agri team available to call customers at a time and place that suits them, to discuss financial requirements and help find solutions to individual customers' problems as they arise," the spokesperson said.

She also pointed out that ACCBank was not a retail bank and had not provided cash services for some time.

Meanwhile, IFA deputy president Eddie Downey has called for more transparency from companies that promoted off-farm investments.

Mr Downey said promoters of these schemes had a duty to provide full, up-to-date and audited annual accounts to all investors.

"There is considerable anxiety among some farmers, who have made off-farm investments, over the lack of adequate information. Some farmers who have contacted [the] IFA feel they have been kept in the dark and denied transparency, particularly where investments may have to be restructured," he said.

"Investors must always be provided, in writing and in advance, with full documents on any proposed corporate restructuring of investments, including details of management and promoters' fees, and clearly defined business plans," Mr Downey added.

He added that investors must have the chance to seek their own independent advice on any restructuring proposals.

"The reality is that prospects for many investments have changed dramatically over the past two years. Promoters have a responsibility to be upfront and frank with investors, and costs such as management fees have to reflect the changed environment."

Irish Independent