Ulster Bank

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Ulster Bank Limited
Industry Financial services
Founded Belfast, United Kingdom (1836) as the Ulster Banking Company
Headquarters Dublin, Ireland
Key people
Paul Stanley ( Acting MD)
Richard Donnan
Products Various banking products
Owner The Royal Bank of Scotland Group
Number of employees
3,250 (2013)
Parent National Westminster Bank
Slogan Help for what matters
Website www.ulsterbank.ie (ROI)
www.ulsterbank.co.uk (NI)

Ulster Bank is a large commercial bank, and one of the traditional Big Four Irish banks. The Ulster Bank Group is subdivided into two separate legal entities, Ulster Bank Limited (UBL – registered in Northern Ireland) and Ulster Bank Ireland Limited (UBIL – registered in the Republic of Ireland). The Group's headquarters (and UBIL's) is located in George's Quay, Dublin in the Republic of Ireland whilst the official headquarters of UBL is in Donegal Square East, Belfast,[1] in Northern Ireland, and it maintains a large sector of the financial services in both the UK and Ireland.

Established in 1836, Ulster Bank was acquired by the Westminster Bank in 1917. As a subsidiary of National Westminster Bank, it became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2000.[2] It has 146 branches in the Republic of Ireland and 90 in Northern Ireland with over 1,200 non-charging ATMs. The Group has over 3,000 employees and over 1.9 million clients.


Ulster Bank premises, The Quays, Waterford, Ireland. 1928.
Former Ulster Bank headquarters on Skipper Street in Belfast, today the Merchant Hotel (2010)

Ulster Bank was founded at the Ulster Banking Company in Belfast in 1836.[3] The bank was formed by a breakaway faction of shareholders in the newly formed National Bank of Ireland, founded in 1835, who objected to the latter bank's plan to invest profits from the bank in London rather than in Belfast. The founding directors of the bank were John Heron, Robert Grimshaw, John Currell a linen bleacher from Ballymena, and James Steen, a Belfast pork curer.[4]

Note destruction

In 2002 three Ulster Bank employees were arrested on charges of theft and money laundering. The three were responsible for the destruction of old banknotes at the bank's former Waring Street cash centre. Between November 2001 and February 2002 they were accused of stealing approximately £900,000 of used banknotes designated for disposal. The money was then placed in various bank and building society accounts.[5] On 23 January 2004 the men were jailed for two and a half years for the theft of £770,000. Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr criticised the bank's security measures during the trial.[6]

First Active

In 2003/2004, Ulster Bank Group purchased First Active, Ireland's oldest building society, for €887 million. In 2009, the First Active branch network and business of several hundred thousand savers and borrowers was merged with Ulster Bank, and the brand name was retired in 2010.[7][8]

Computer Failure

In June 2012 a computer system failure prevented customers from accessing accounts. Initial estimates that the problem would be sorted out within a week were wildly optimistic with thousands of customers still unable to access their accounts into late July 2012, with ongoing issues still not resolved by mid August 2012. This RBS / NatWest / Ulster Bank issue has proved to be one of the largest IT failures the world has ever known. Ulster Bank (the smallest part of the RBS group) has initially set aside £28M for compensation to customers.[9]


In March 2014 it was reported that the RBS Group was considering merging the bank in Ireland with some of its rivals in order to reduce its holding. RBS Group's annual results for 2013 revealed Ulster Bank had operating losses of £1.5 billion and accounted for a fifth of the parent group's total bad debt charges.[10] In October 2014 RBS confirmed it would retain Ulster Bank following improved market conditions in Ireland.[11]


Ulster Bank provide a full range of banking and insurance services to personal, business and commercial customers.

In Northern Ireland the bank is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Ulster Bank Limited is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the British Bankers' Association. In Ireland, the bank is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

The bank provides Visa Debit cards to customers with their current accounts, having previously issued Maestro (formerly Switch) and Laser debit cards to NI and ROI customers respectively, in addition to other financial services. It launched 15 new commitments to its retail customers in September 2010.[12]

Ulster Bank is used by RBS to deposit funds invested through the popular Royal Deposit Plan; one of RBS current structured investments.

Corporate identity

From 1968 until 2005, Ulster Bank's logo was three chevrons – identical to that of the National Westminster Bank, its owner. The bank changed to the RBS logo and typeface style in October 2005. The bank is one of the four banks that issue Pound sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland.


File:George Best commemorative issue £5 note - Ulster Bank.jpg
The commemorative George Best five-pound note issued by Ulster Bank

In common with the other Big Four banks of Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank retains the right to issue its own banknotes. These are pound sterling notes and equal in value to Bank of England notes, and should not be confused with banknotes of the former Irish pound.

Ulster Bank's current notes all share the same design of a view of Belfast harbour flanked by landscape views; the design of the reverse is dominated by the bank's coats-of-arms. The principal difference between the denominations is their colour and size. Most recent notes incorporate the NatWest chevron, as previously used by the Ulster Bank; however, the most recent issue of the 10 and 20 pound note incorporates their new logo, which is based on that of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

  • 5 pound note, grey
  • 10 pound note, blue-green
  • 20 pound note, purple
  • 50 pound note, blue

In November 2006 Ulster Bank issued its first commemorative banknote – an issue of one million £5 notes commemorating the first anniversary of the death of the former Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer, George Best. This was the first Ulster Bank banknote to incorporate their new logo, similar to the logo of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and the entire issue was taken by collectors within hours of becoming available in bank branches.


On 8 February 2008, Ulster Bank Group Chief Executive, Cormac McCarthy, announced a three-year sponsorship deal worth over £1m for the Belfast Festival at Queen's. It was hailed as a "new dawn" for the festival which had been suffering underfunding.[13][14]

Ulster Bank was the first overall sponsor of The Balmoral Show in 2009, Northern Ireland's largest agricultural show.[15][16]

Ulster Bank announced official sponsorship of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in April 2008.


  1. "Ulster Bank". Bank.org.uk. Retrieved 10 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Annual Report and Accounts National Westminster Bank, 31 December 2010
  3. John D. Turner, Banking in Crisis: The Rise and Fall of British Banking Stability (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) p.111
  4. Philip Ollerenshaw, Banking in Nineteenth-century Ireland: The Belfast Banks, 1825-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987) p.46f
  5. "Three remanded over bank theft". BBC News. 23 February 2002. Retrieved 19 February 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Bank messenger thieves jailed". BBC News. 23 January 2004. Retrieved 19 February 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Our History – Our Story". Ulster Bank Group. Retrieved 15 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Carswell, Simon (13 February 2010). "First Active clients switch to Ulster Bank as name expunged". The Irish Times. The finalisation of the merger comes more than a year after Ulster Bank announced that it would close First Active and merge its business and customers into the bank’s network. Ulster Bank has already merged about three-quarters of First Active’s 60 branches, and closed the rest.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Ulster Bank services 'back next week'". The Irish Times. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Ulster Bank: RBS 'considers merger' with Irish rivals". BBC News. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Campbell, John (31 October 2014). "Ulster Bank to remain under control of RBS". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Ulster Bank pledges to meet consumers' needs with 15 new customer commitments http://www.jprni.com/work/index.php?news=376
  13. McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "£1m 'new dawn' deal for Queen's Festival". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "Festival future looks bright with £1m deal". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. http://www.balmoralshow.co.uk
  16. "Northern Ireland Balmoral show announces new investment". Ulster Bank. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2013-08-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links