Ireland’s banking landscape is undergoing drastic change

Ireland’s banking landscape is undergoing drastic change

The complexion of Irish banking has changed drastically.

Over the space of just a few weeks, NatWest-owned Ulster Bank announced it was shutting down operations while KBC Ireland entered talks to sell off its loan book and make for the exit.

The moves could eventually leave just three banks in the Irish market — the two major players in Bank of Ireland and AIB, and Permanent TSB — sounding alarm bells about the state of banking competition in the country.

All the while, fintech (financial technology) upstarts well-heeled with venture capital funding, like Revolut and N26, have gathered pace in the market. Revolut boasts around 1.3 million users in Ireland, while N26 has around 200,000 users.

Adrienne Gormley, the chief operating officer at Germany’s N26, which is a fully regulated bank itself, is cognizant of the drastically altered market.

“Number one we view it as an opportunity. While the Ulster Bank news was probably on the cards for some time, I think people were taken by surprise at the KBC announcement,” she told CNBC.

It may present opportunities but it also begs the question, what challenges and problems are so prevalent in the Irish market that two major banks would wash their hands of it and leave?

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