Eddie Cullen was speaking at the British Irish Chamber Conference. Here are some snippets
Ulster Bank was founded in 1836
Ulster Bank has had an all-island presence in Ireland since it was founded in 1836. In 1917, we became a wholly owned subsidiary of what is now known as NatWest, cementing our links to Britain. The relationship and trading links between Ireland and Britain are central to Ulster Bank’s own history, and remain important to us today.
To quote President Higgins (State Banquet, Windsor, April 2014) “Ireland and Britain live in both the shadow and in the shelter of one another, and so it has been since the dawn of history. Through conquest and resistance, we have cast shadows on each other, but we have also gained strength from one another as neighbours and, most especially, from the contribution of those who have travelled between our islands in recent decades”.
Perhaps that contribution was best captured by the late Sir Terry Wogan. In recent years we have most definitely gained strength from one another and that is best seen in some of the statistics that underpin out trading links.
The importance of trade between UK and Ireland, some stats:
- Britain is Ireland’s most important tourism market, with 3.5 million British people visiting here in 2015, contributing significantly to the economy and over 2.5m Irish people going the other way.
- Passenger traffic on the air route between Dublin and London climbed 9% to 4.5 million last year, making it officially Europe’s busiest and the world’s second busiest route, second only to Hong Kong-Taipei.
- The UK accounts for 30% of imports into Ireland and in 2014, these imports of goods and services from the UK to Ireland totalled £27.86 billion.
- Ireland is the UK’s largest export market in food and drink, and second largest market in clothing, fashion and footwear.
- The UK is the main destination for Irish agri-food and drink exports accounting for 41% of the total in 2015.
Ulster Bank and the British Irish Chamber
Given such significant trade, cultural and political links that exist between Britain and Ireland the British Irish Chamber provides an essential focal point for these interests to interact and network in pursuit of the common aim of promoting business between our two countries. In Ulster Bank we are strongly supportive of the work of the Chamber and believe that despite the strength of the relationship it must not be taken for granted. The work of the chamber and conferences such as todays help to ensure that we both maintain and further develop these trading links.
Turning to Ulster Bank briefly our business continues to develop strongly in Ireland and last year we saw significant growth in new lending volumes both in personal banking and commercial banking. In Commercial Banking alone our new lending volumes were €1.1bn, the growth in the economy is evident across all sectors. We are focused on delivering our ambition of being No 1 for customer service and two weeks ago launched our new campaign to bring to life our core customer promise of Help for What Matters.
Innovation and fintech
We are continuing to invest in innovation which in our industry is evolving rapidly. We have recently partnered with Dogpatch Labs, one of Ireland’s leading co-working spaces for tech start-ups. Our innovation team is working with these dynamic start-ups to help push the boundaries of Fintech development. This partnership will allow us to both support start-up businesses and leverage the best in cutting edge financial technology.
These are significant times for Ireland in this year of commemoration and with our upcoming election. Additionally the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership will be significant event for UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe. This conference and the discussions it will facilitate can play a key part in the debate around the sort of union business desires.
I came across a very interesting quote from a senior conservative politician of a few years ago, who said the following “Britain does not dream of some isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the community”. Believe it or not that was Margaret Thatcher speaking in Bruges in 1988.
We will soon see if the electorate in the UK agrees with that sentiment. Whatever the outcome of the Referendum, I believe the relationship between our two countries will remain strong and trading relationships will continue to grow in the years ahead.