Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland made £51m profit in 2018

Ulster Bank
Image caption Ulster Bank had a turnover of £184m in 2018

Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland made a pre-tax profit of £51m on turnover of £184m in 2018.

That is down on 2017's £59m, however last year's figure had been boosted by the 'write back' of bad loan charges.

Write-backs refer to money set aside to cover expected losses that can now be released as loans performed better than expected.

The bank's underlying profit increased from £53m to £57m.

Richard Donnan, head of the bank in Northern Ireland, said the core business "continues to show a positive performance" with underlying profit up by 80% in the past two years.

Image caption The head of Ulster Bank in NI said no branch closures were planned for this year

The bank's customers are continuing to make greater use of digital services with app transactions increasing by 45% over the year.

Mr Donnan said there would be further investment in technology but no further branch closures were planned this year.

Like other Northern Ireland banks Ulster has closed many of its branches in recent years and now has 44.

Mr Donnan said branch staff are undergoing retraining so they are better able to deal with more complex queries and transactions that customers cannot do online.

'Political uncertainty'

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank's parent company RBS has reported profits of £1.62bn for 2018, more than double the £752m it made a year earlier.

RBS chief Ross McEwan called the results "a good performance in the face of economic and political uncertainty".

Mr McEwan said the UK economy faced "a heightened level of uncertainty related to ongoing Brexit negotiations".

He told the BBC that Brexit could have a bigger impact on the economy than the Bank of England has suggested.

Mr Donnan said that in Northern Ireland some business customers had paused investment plans while they wait for clarity about post-Brexit arrangements.

He added that other businesses had been stockpiling both raw materials and finished products ahead of Brexit.

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