Ulster Bank

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

Ulster Bank Limited
Ulster Bank Ireland DAC
IndustryFinancial services
FoundedBelfast, Ireland, United Kingdom (1836), as the Ulster Banking Company
HeadquartersBelfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Key people
Jane Howard
Paul Stanley
Ciaran Coyle
Eddie Cullen
ProductsVarious banking products
OwnerUK Government Investments (62.4%)
Number of employees
3,250 (2013)
ParentNatWest Holdings
Websitedigital.ulsterbank.ie (ROI)
digital.ulsterbank.co.uk (NI)

Established in 1836, Ulster Bank was acquired by the London County and Westminster Bank in 1917. As a wholly owned subsidiary of National Westminster Bank, it became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2000.[2] RBS Group was renamed NatWest Group in 2020. The bank has 146 branches in the Republic of Ireland and 90 in Northern Ireland with over 1,200 non-charging ATMs. It has over 3,000 employees and over 1.9 million clients.


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

Ulster Bank was founded as The Ulster Banking Company in Belfast in 1836,[3] by a breakaway faction of shareholders in the newly formed National Bank of Ireland, which had been 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 destructionEdit

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 ActiveEdit

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 FailureEdit

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 then RBS Group was considering merging the bank in the Republic of 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]

In September 2020 The Irish Times reported that NatWest was considering closing Ulster Bank branches, a process that would take around six years.[12]


Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin

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 UK Finance. In the Republic of 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.[13]

Corporate identityEdit

From 1968 until 2005, Ulster Bank's logo was three arrowheads device of National Westminster Bank, its owner. The bank adopted the RBS "daisy wheel" logo and typeface design in October 2005. The bank is one of the four banks that issue Pound sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland.


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. Notes incorporate a foil patch security feature depicting the Bank's logo.

  • 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 former Northern Irish and Manchester United footballer, George Best. This was the first Ulster Bank banknote to incorporate the RBS "daisy wheel", and the entire issue was taken by collectors within hours of becoming available in bank branches.

In 2019, Ulster Bank will be issuing a new series of banknotes printed in polymer, and will be replacing its paper equivalents currently in circulation.


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.[14][15]

Ulster Bank was the first overall sponsor of The Balmoral Show in 2009, Northern Ireland's largest agricultural show.[16][17]

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ulster Bank". Bank.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  2. ^ Annual Report and Accounts Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine 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.
  6. ^ "Bank messenger thieves jailed". BBC News. 23 January 2004. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  7. ^ "Our History – Our Story". Ulster Bank Group. Archived from the original on 1 February 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
  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.
  9. ^ "Ulster Bank services 'back next week'". The Irish Times. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  10. ^ "Ulster Bank: RBS 'considers merger' with Irish rivals". BBC News. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  11. ^ Campbell, John (31 October 2014). "Ulster Bank to remain under control of RBS". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  12. ^ Brennan, Joe (18 September 2020). "NatWest considers closing Ulster Bank in the Republic". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  13. ^ Ulster Bank pledges to meet consumers' needs with 15 new customer commitments http://www.jprni.com/work/index.php?news=376
  14. ^ McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "£1m 'new dawn' deal for Queen's Festival". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 1.
  15. ^ McCreary, Matthew (8 February 2008). "Festival future looks bright with £1m deal". The Belfast Telegraph. p. 3.
  16. ^ http://www.balmoralshow.co.uk
  17. ^ "Northern Ireland Balmoral show announces new investment". Ulster Bank. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2013.

External linksEdit