BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
As part of its ongoing work to supervise the withdrawal of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank from the Irish market, the Central Bank recently published a report showing the trends in account closures and openings.
The data shows a total of 292,996 accounts have been closed by customers in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank in the year to end of August 2022. Of these, 140,573 were current accounts, and 152,423 were deposit accounts. In total, 24% of the current and deposit accounts that were open at the beginning of the year in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank have now been closed. The data also shows that the pace of account closures has accelerated in recent weeks.
A total of 600,311 accounts were opened in the three main remaining banks in the first eight months of the year. The majority of these were current accounts (434,166). This is approximately 46% higher than the number of accounts opened by this group of banks in the first eight months of previous years. The number of active credit and debit cards held by customers of the exiting banks declined by 21% since the beginning of 2021. Of the total new accounts opened in the first eight months of 2022, 56% were opened online, while the remainder were opened in a branch. The average waiting time for a branch appointment was eight working days at end of August 2022.
Director of Consumer Protection, Colm Kincaid says: “It is positive to see that so many Ulster Bank and KBC Bank customers have taken the steps to move their accounts at this stage in the process, and it is clear that bank staff are working extremely hard to assist those customers. For customers who are yet to complete migrating their account, banks must ensure that all and every reasonable measure is taken to ensure those customers are enabled to switch.”
But the experience of some customers in moving their accounts, has been far from satisfactory. Therefore, the Central Bank has advised all banks to increase resources, improve processes and training to equip staff to ensure that customers are properly supported. There are certain responsibilities that lie with your bank(s) but there are certain steps that only you can take.
Your new bank will open your new current account and provide you with a switcher pack to complete. This includes the account transfer form and sample letter templates that can be used to inform your employer and other parties of your new bank details. Then your new bank will send the completed account transfer from to your new bank to commence the switch.
But you must allow enough time for the switch to take place between your old and new accounts. Engage with your new account provider as early as possible to agree a switching date. Use a time when there is little activity in your account and avoid using your old cards or cheque book once the switching process has started.
Be careful when completing the form. At this stage a mistake will delay the process. If you make a mistake filling the form, better to complete a fresh one rather than crossing out your mistake, as this will make the form easier to read and will reduce delays.
Download or order any documents you require before you close your account eg. bank statements, certificates of interest, information on fees and charges as you will not have access to your account once they are closed.
Make sure there are sufficient funds in both your old account and your new account during the transfer process so that you have access to your money and can continue to cover any incoming debits including standing orders, direct debits, cheques, interest fees or charges due. And, finally, don’t forget about your subscriptions. Those linked to your debit card do not fall under the switcher code and need to be reviewed manually.
If you are not happy with the switch or something goes wrong, first make a complaint directly to the bank as they must have a complaints process in place and there are strict timelines for dealing with your complaint. If, after following the complaints process, you are still not satisfied with the response, you can refer your complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.