Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank's Ellvena Graham apologises over job cuts error

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEllvena Graham is the chief operating officer and head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland

The Ulster Bank has said it "deeply regrets" the way it handled last week's news of job losses and branch closures.

The head of the bank in Northern Ireland, Ellvena Graham, apologised to staff and customers when she appeared before Stormont's finance committee.

She said an investor briefing had caused erroneous reports on job losses that had "shocked" Ulster Bank staff.

It led to reports of 1,800 job losses, when in fact up to 850 posts are to be closed through "natural wastage".

The investor relations briefing had been prepared for Ulster Bank's parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

'Inaccurate'

Ms Graham told MLAs: "Unfortunately initial reports of the briefing stated that 1,800 jobs were being shed, on top of the 950 already announced last year.

"This was inaccurate and it understandably shocked our staff who had no prior warning of such figures," she said.

"I want to reiterate that we deeply regret the misunderstanding of the investor relations briefing. This is something that was preventable."

In fact, a further 350 to 850 posts could go by 2016, but Ms Graham said this would be done through natural wastage and temporary contracts not being renewed.

Branch closures

Potentially, one third of the jobs affected could be in Northern Ireland.

The bank will also be closing further branches across the island of Ireland in 2014.

It has 79 in Northern Ireland and MLAs were told "a relatively small number" of them are likely to close.

"MLAs will be concerned about the fate of specific branches but we are not in a position today to discuss the future of individual branches until we have fully worked through that process and informed staff," said Ms Graham.

Earlier, evidence was given by the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.

Customer confidence

It recently met the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and called for the publication of findings of its inquiry into the major computer system failure that affected Ulster Bank and RBS customers a year ago.

The council was given no indication when a report will be published, but said it was crucial to restore customer confidence in the banks.

Ulster Bank is the third largest bank on the island of Ireland and has been in operation for 177 years.

More on this story