Fears for 1,000 MBNA jobs as bank to end Irish operations
FEARS were growing last night for the future of 1,000 high-quality jobs at credit card company MBNA.
It came after Bank of America -- which owns the company -- revealed it planned to pull out of its credit card operations in Ireland and the UK.
Most of the 1,000 Irish workers are employed in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, providing both telephone and online customer service to hundreds of thousands of credit card users here and in the UK.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton admitted he was concerned about the implications for the jobs there and has called in the IDA to help find a buyer for the business.
The president of Carrick-on-Shannon Chamber of Commerce, Gerry Faughnan, said last night it was "too early to say that the jobs are gone" and he hoped a buyer would be found for the Irish business.
He told the Irish Independent: "We have been aware that Bank of America has been disposing of its businesses in other countries, most recently in Canada and Spain, and buyers were found in those cases.
"There is a huge skill base here and the business continues to operate and I would be hopeful that new owners will come in. I think it's too early to say that jobs are gone."
He said that Bank of America had been a valued employer in the region over many years but insisted: "They will be missed but the company leaves behind a substantial, skilled, cost-effective and diverse workforce that is ready and willing to work with a new investor.
Mr Bruton said last night he was in contact with Bank of America officials following its decision to sell its Irish and British credit card businesses.
"I have been in contact with representatives of Bank of America to discuss their decision and its implications for their Carrick-on- Shannon facility," he said.
"I have also spoken to the IDA and asked them to work closely with the company with a view to assisting them finding a buyer for the business."
Hundreds of jobs at two MBNA sites in Dublin will not be affected by the announcement, it was confirmed.
MBNA is the largest card provider in the Irish market. Its UK and Irish card businesses have $19bn (€13.14bn) in credit card loans and more than 4,000 employees in total.
There was already speculation last night that a large European bank may take over the business. The company had no comment yesterday.
The planned sale comes as the US bank seeks ways to boost its funds as it fights lawsuits and credit problems related to its ill-fated acquisition of US mortgage lender Countrywide Financial three years ago.
The bank has lost more than $22bn (€15.2bn) in its consumer mortgage division in the last four quarters. It agreed in June to pay $8.5bn (€5.8bn) to those who bought some of its mortgage investments and is fighting numerous lawsuits challenging the settlement and other mortgage issues. Earlier this year the Irish Central Bank said it had fined MBNA €750,000 for imposing incorrect charges totalling almost €17m on hundreds of thousands of its Irish credit card customers.
The Central Bank said MBNA applied interest rate charges to some credit card accounts from the transaction date rather than the statement date.