Irish customers and employees of Ulster Bank may finally get some clarity on the future of the bank this week.

NatWest, the UK bank which owns Ulster Bank, is expected to announce the results of its strategic review of Ulster Bank’s operations in the Republic of Ireland when it reports its full-year results for 2020 on Friday this week.

There has been significant uncertainty hanging over the future of Ulster Bank in the Irish market, after it emerged in September last year that NatWest was “actively considering” winding down Ulster Bank’s operations in the Republic of Ireland as part of a strategic review of the organisation.

Agri lending

Ulster Bank is the third-largest retail bank in Ireland and is a really significant player in the banking sector, with over €22bn in deposits.

The lender has 2,800 employees in the Republic of Ireland and over 1m customers, many of whom are farmers.

In total, Ulster Bank accounts for about 15% of the €1bn market in new lending issued to farmers every year.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said a reduction in Ulster Bank's presence in the Irish market or a complete withdrawal would have a very significant impact on its staff and the Irish economy.

Minister McGrath also warned that any wind down of Ulster Bank’s presence would have a negative impact on the availability of banking services in Ireland.

Depending on the outcome of the expected announcement from NatWest this week, Minister McGrath said there are regulatory protections in place for Irish consumers that will be invoked if NatWest decides to end Ulster Bank’s presence in the Irish market.