Senior banker says Ulster Bank is not 'leaving town'

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A senior Ulster Bank official has rejected an assertion that the bank was "leaving town", on 27 June 2013.

Ian Jordan, the bank's head of business and commercial banking, assured members of the Stormont Agriculture Committee that the company was "here for the future and the long-haul".

Committee chairman Paul Frew of the DUP said the claim that the bank was leaving town had been made to him by his party colleague the MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley jr.

The chancellor of the exchequer had recently raised the possibility of splitting the Ulster Bank into "good and bad banks".

George Osborne ordered a review into breaking up the bank's parent body, the RBS, to focus on assets in Ulster Bank and UK commercial real estate.

Mr Jordan said the bank would await the review "but in the meantime we'll continue to support our customers".

The Agriculture Committee was hearing from representatives of the Bank of Ireland, Ulster and Danske banks regarding the financial crisis in farming.

Danske Bank official Kevin Kingston defended his company's record in its dealing with the farming industry.

He told the committee that "the number of forced repossessions in the past 12 months has been zero".

When asked about the bank's attitude to granting credit and overdrafts to farmers, Mr Kingston said it was true that "the level of due diligence" required by the bank had increased during the financial crisis.

His colleague, Robert McCullough, said the bank now expected applicants to provide a basic business plan.

Ciaran McGivern from the Bank of Ireland said that historically it had not been seen as a "bank of choice" for the farming industry.

He said it had around 10% of market share in Northern Ireland, compared to 40% in the Republic.

Paul Frew asked for the bank's view of the Agri-Food Strategy Board's report "Going for Growth", which envisaged £400m investment from government and £1.3bn from industry.

Bank of Ireland economist Alan Bridle said £400m of public money was "a huge ask" and that the projected 15,000 new jobs would be "fairly expensive" at £27,000 a head.

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