NatWest is considering withdrawing its Ulster Bank brand from the Republic of Ireland, it has been reported.
The Financial Times said that the bank is expected to announce a phased exit from the country, where it is the third-largest bank and operates under the Ulster Bank brand, when it reports its annual results on Friday.
A NatWest Group spokeswoman said that any changes to its strategy will be be made with the “full consideration” of the impact on customers, staff and shareholders.
She added: “We continue to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 and the challenges to the economy and we are reviewing our strategy appropriately and responsibly in light of these events.
“In the event of any changes being made to our strategy, these would be undertaken with full consideration of any impact on customers, colleagues and shareholders in the first instance.
“Our priority now is to continue to remain focussed on supporting our colleagues in serving our customers in these difficult times.”
Its Northern Ireland operation is expected to be unaffected by any changes announced in the Republic.
Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland has 2,800 employees, 110 branches and a 20.5 billion euro loan book.
It has around 1.9 million personal and business customers through 174 outlets across the island of Ireland and a business banking presence in every county.
In 2019, Ulster Bank’s total income fell due to non-performing loans after the sale of a portfolio of mortgages.
Customer deposits had increased and the bank reported higher operating profits a year ago.
The speculation over its future comes as the Irish parliament, the Dail, heard withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the Irish market would be a “major hammer blow” to customers and workers.
Deputy PM Leo Varadkar, who was taking Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, said the potential withdrawal of the bank was a “matter of real concern” for the Government.
Mr Varadkar told the Dail that if the bank closes in Ireland all deposits and savings would be “fully protected”.