I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 63 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, I have met with representatives from both Ulster Bank and its parent company, NatWest in recent months. My most recent meeting was with the Chair of NatWest on the 17 December where I emphasised that Ulster Bank is an important part of the Irish banking landscape and I reiterated the importance of timely and direct communication between staff, their representatives and management throughout the review, especially if there are any developments. I outlined that I expected that any decisions arising from the review will be swiftly communicated to staff, customers and other stakeholders.
I also met with representatives of Ulster Bank on 21 October. Ulster Bank has confirmed that the strategic review is ongoing and that no decisions have yet been taken. Ulster Bank also confirmed that there is no set timetable for this review and that it is fully aware of the strategically important role that Ulster Bank plays in the provision of financial services to the Irish market.
I emphasised the importance of Ulster Bank to the Irish financial services market, to the wider economy and to the communities it serves. News of the review is, of course, unsettling for all stakeholders, especially the staff and customers.
The continued presence of a viable and active Ulster Bank in the Irish market would be the most welcome outcome. However, as the Deputy will be aware, I have no formal role in the commercial decisions of Ulster Bank, these are a matter for the Board and Management of the Bank and its parent company, NatWest.
While I will have further engagement with the bank as the review process continues, I would like to emphasise that I have no role in the review or any commercial decisions arising from it. My officials will continue to monitor developments.
In the event of any credit institution withdrawing from the Irish market, such a withdrawal must be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of Irish financial services legislation, including the Central Bank’s codes of conduct, specifically, provision 3.11 of the statutory Consumer Protection Code 2012.
Under provision 3.11, where a regulated entity intends to cease operating, merge with another, or to transfer all or part of its regulated activities to another regulated entity it must:
a. notify the Central Bank immediately;
b. provide at least two months notice to affected consumers to enable them to make alternative arrangements;
c. ensure all outstanding business is properly completed prior to the transfer, merger or cessation of operations or, alternatively in the case of a transfer or merger, inform the consumer of how continuity of service will be provided following the transfer or merger; and
d. in the case of a merger or transfer of regulated activities, inform the consumer that their details are being transferred to the other regulated entity, if that is the case.