Tuesday 25 September 2018

Ulster Bank to escape mass RBS branch closures

Incoming Ulster Bank CEO Jane Howard (above) will explain RBS branch closures to a meeting of a UK parliamentary committee next week, along with other top executives from the bank
Incoming Ulster Bank CEO Jane Howard (above) will explain RBS branch closures to a meeting of a UK parliamentary committee next week, along with other top executives from the bank
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Ulster Bank's operations in the Republic will escape a radical cull of its UK parent's branch network in England and Wales.

UK state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) announced yesterday that it is to cut around 792 jobs and shutter 162 branches, prompting criticism from customers and one of the unions representing the bank's staff.

Senior officials at the bank, which was largely nationalised in the wake of the financial crisis, were already due to appear in front of the British parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee to discuss branch closures on May 8.

The committee is examining an earlier decision to close 62 branches in Scotland.

That delegation of five senior RBS officials includes group chief executive Ross McEwen and Jane Howard, the managing director of Personal Banking, whose division made yesterday's branch closure announcement. She is due to take over as head of Ulster Bank this summer.

RBS said yesterday that the redundancies and closures were necessary because many of its branches were too close to one another - within 0.6 and 2.5 miles - and because of changing consumer habits.

The group operates through two main brands in the UK, NatWest and RBS, with overlapping branch networks.

Some of the overlap would have been removed under a plan to create and spin off a third bank brand - Williams & Glyn that RBS was to sell to meet European competition concerns.

That spin-off, which was to be headed by former Ulster Bank CEO Jim Browne, collapsed in 2016, leaving RBS Group to decide the fate of the hundreds of Williams & Glyn branches.

"We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected. We will ensure compulsory redundancies are kept to an absolute minimum," the bank said.

The cuts follow the closure of 259 branches announced in December last year.

Chairwoman of Britain's parliamentary Treasury Committee Nicky Morgan said financial exclusion could increase as a result of RBS's decision, with vulnerable people and those in rural areas most at risk. "The government may be required to intervene," she said in a statement.

Trade union Unite said close to 60pc of Williams & Glyn branches will now close calling it "shambolically poor management" of the business. (Additional reporting Reuters)

Irish Independent

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