Relief for its 1,000-strong Irish workforce...
KBC Bank has confirmed it will stay in Ireland, ending weeks of speculation over the future of its 1,000 employees.
The Belgian-owned bank has made a "long-term commitment" to the country following a strategic review of its Irish activities.
Speaking to Breakfast Business, CEO Wim Verbraeken cited the strong recovery of the Irish economy in recent years, as well as "strong fundamentals and attractive demographics", as key reasons behind the decision.
He also put it down to the turnaround performance of the bank itself, which returned to profitability in 2015.
Releasing its results for what it called "a very successful 2016", KBC Bank Ireland reported a net profit of €227 million after tax and impairments. This is up from €75m the year previous.
It also added 70,000 new customer accounts for the year and saw continued momentum in reducing the number of mortgage arrears cases.
KBC Group ended 2016 with a net profit of €2.43bn, compared with €2.64bn (€2.22bn excluding the two main one-off items) for the same period last year.
“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for KBC customers and staff, and will result in more competition in Irish banking and better choice for customers. KBC has been here for over 40 years, we’ve invested heavily through the recent challenging period, built a strong and compelling retail bank, and are looking forward to becoming the main challenger bank here."
As part of its multi-year investment of over €100 million, KBC also became the first retail bank in Ireland to offer consumers digital mobile and desktop current account openings.
As a result, 41% of KBC current account openings during the quarter occurred via digital channels, with customers embracing new ways to bank online. KBC became one of the first banks in Ireland to offer Android Pay, giving customers the chance to pay for goods and services with their mobile phone like a contactless card.
KBC Group CEO Johan Thijs commented:
"KBC Bank Ireland will be the customer-centric bank of the future where digitalisation will support a great customer experience...
"We believe Ireland is a sound and attractive market which presents opportunities and in which we wish to play a more active role. It provides diversification to our operations in Western and Central Europe. Going forward, Ireland will be a core market in which KBC will continue to invest. The Bank will be a frontrunner in the digital transformation of the KBC Group where digital solutions will be tested for further group-wide roll-out.
We believe we have the people in Ireland with the right skills, the energy and determination to do this and we are ready to support them. In the medium and long-term this customer-centric approach will result in a sustainable future-proof business model and financial results for KBC Bank Ireland, to the benefit of its customers, staff and all other stakeholders."