In Autumn 2013, following a review of its operations by the UK Treasury, RBS reaffirmed its commitment to the Irish market. As part of that process, Treasury officials engaged with officials from my Department. In February 2014, I met with RBS executives to ascertain their outlook for the bank both here and in the UK. RBS is currently reviewing the operations of Ulster Bank in Ireland with a view to creating a sustainable business model, and on 27 February, RBS re-iterated its commitment to the Irish market. RBS also stated its intention to build on Ulster Bank's current position to be a compelling challenger bank to the main domestic banks and focus firmly on the customer. It is good news that the bank has committed so firmly to the Irish market and I think it shows significant support for expanding Ulster Bank's presence in the Irish market.
From a domestic banking perspective, the continued presence of a viable and active Ulster bank in the Irish market will be important in fostering competition for banking services. It is vital that businesses and consumers have a range of banking options available when using financial services and accessing credit - all of which will become increasingly important as the economy recovers. Officials in the Department of Finance have been in contact with both RBS and Ulster Bank officials and this will continue as the bank finalises its plans for the future.