Just a quarter of accounts in KBC and Ulster Bank have been closed so far this year

ONLY a quarter of accounts in KBC Bank and Ulster Bank have closed so far this year.

his is despite the two banks repeatedly telling their customers they are closing and asking them to switch to other account providers.

The two banks are due to pull out of this country next year.

The Central Bank said 600,311 accounts were opened in the three main remaining banks in the first eight months of the year.

This is made up of both current and deposit accounts.

And the regulator warned that the experience of many people trying to switch has not been satisfactory.

In a new dataset on account openings and closings, the Central Bank said a total of 292,996 accounts have been closed by customers in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank in the year to the end of August.

Some 140,573 of these were current accounts, and 152,423 were deposit accounts.

In total, 24pc of the current and deposit accounts that were open at the beginning of the year in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank had been closed by August.

The data also shows that the pace of account closures has accelerated in recent weeks.

Some 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, at 434,166.

This is around 46pc 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 fell by 21pc since the beginning of 2021.

Of the total new accounts opened in the first eight months of 2022, more than half were opened online.

The remainder were opened in a branch.

The average waiting time for a branch appointment was eight working days.

Central bank director of consumer protection, Colm Kincaid, said it was positive to see that so many Ulster Bank and KBC customers have taken the steps to move their accounts.

But he warned the banks that for those yet to switch all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure those customers are enabled to switch.

And he added: “More remains to be done to improve the experience of customers moving their account, and for too many customers that experience has not been satisfactory.”

He said banks need to continue to increase resources and improve processes and training in order to equip their staff to meet the challenges this exercise presents.

“We will continue to engage closely with all of the banks as part of our supervisory work in the coming weeks and months to ensure that customers are properly supported.”

Meanwhile, KBC said it will permanently close its hubs on March 10 next.

It said the transfer of customer products to Bank of Ireland is expected to happen early next year and all KBC Hubs will remain open until that point.

But KBC hubs in Galway, Limerick, Lapps Quay Cork, Wilton Shopping Centre Cork, Waterford, Maynooth, Main Street Swords, Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, College Green Dublin, Baggot Street Dublin and Stillorgan will close permanently on March 10.

The bank said KBC’s contact centre is the preferred choice for customers as 90pc of all customer service queries are handled through the contact centre.

It said 97pc of active KBC current account customers are digitally enabled.

KBC said it has increased staff numbers significantly to support customers through this period of change. For example, the number of employees working in the service contact centre has doubled since the announcement of the agreement with Bank of Ireland.

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