We are actually thinking of switching our mortgage to Ulster Bank from Bank of Ireland to take advantage of the five-year fixed rate.

The Ulster Bank financial adviser stated that we cannot overpay the mortgage on a monthly basis but that we could pay off 10 per cent of the outstanding balance once every 12 months. This is something that we think we will have the funds for each year and will obviously reduce the term of the mortgage and overall interest payments.

My question is: will this option still be open to us if our mortgage is sold on to another financial institution?

Do you think it is crazy to consider moving to Ulster Bank when all this uncertainty is going on?

Mr EC, email

You have to wonder what Ulster Bank’s parent, NatWest bank, was thinking of when it let it slip that it was reviewing its operations in the Republic. Not taking away from our own Joe Brennan, who broke the story, but this sort of in-house discussion is, by nature so sensitive that you would imagine the bank would make a better job of keeping its cards close to its chest.

It has certainly managed to be resolutely Sphinx-like in the face of a flood of queries from its worried customers since.

If Ulster has a five-year rate that is better than anything on offer elsewhere right now, then that is where you should go

The move has fundamentally undermined the position of the bank’s chief executive Jane Howard and also of Ruairí O’Flynn, the chairman who was installed only in September. And it hasn’t been helped by the deadline for a decision on the issue slipping to the point where it is now open-ended.

The outcome, unsurprisingly, has been a tsunami of uncertainty among existing customers and also those whose business the bank is looking to attract.

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Bank history

The bank’s position, and its ongoing official line that its strategy to grow the bank “organically and safely remains unchanged” is not helped by a history of high costs and low profitability in the Irish market.

Ulster Bank, like its peers, is still recovering from the financial crisis and the financial and reputational wounds of the tracker mortgage crisis. Now it faces into the prospect of another wave of bad debt as a result of the Covid-related shutdowns of large sectors of the economy.



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