Ulster Bank has said its operating losses for the year rose to £1.457 billion from £1.040 billion in 2012, as its parent group, Royal Bank of Scotland, committed to maintaining its presence here.

The bank's profits before impairment charges came to £317m for the year, down marginally from the £324m reported in 2012.

Its impairment charges for the year rose to £1.77 billion, up from £1.36 billion in 2012. £892m of this was related to the creation of its parent owner's "bad bank", RBS Capital Resolution.

Ulster Bank has said it will continue to review its operations here, with a view to being a "challenger" to the systemic banks in Ireland.

The bank, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, said it was reviewing its business here to make it viable and sustainable for the future. 

"In this regard, we are accelerating our strategy for the bank to improve service to our customers, reduced costs and simplify our operating model," it added.

The bank said that its total expenses during the year rose by £33m, on the back of its mandatory change programmes and support for customers in financial difficulty. 

Ulster Bank noted that the number of its customers in mortgage arrears for more than 90 days has continued to decline for nine successive months to the end of December.

"Today's results demonstrate our continued progress toward returning to profitability in 2014 through an improved operational performance across the bank. There is a significant decrease in operating loss and impairments, increased income and a continued improvement in loan:deposit ratio," commented Ulster Bank's chief executive Jim Brown. 

"The transfer of non-performing loans to RCR and the associated one-off impairment charge, will enable us to focus on building a really good core bank that serves our customers well," he added.

Ulster Bank's business strategy to change - McEwan

Meanwhile, RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said that consumers and businesses across the island of Ireland deserve a "better banking service". 

"To achieve this, however, we must change the way we currently organise our business in the Irish market place. We took the first major step at the end of 2013 when we announced our intention to remove £9 billion of the worst credit risks from the Ulster Bank balance sheet. Our second step is focused on improving customer experience and shareholder return," Mr McEwan said.
He said that RBS is reviewing the Ulster Bank business to make it "viable and sustainable into the future", adding that Ulster Bank will continue to explore further opportunities to transform the business. 

"Our customers in the island of Ireland need to know that we are committed to providing them with a great everyday banking service. We will finalise our plans in the coming months - but this is about a change in business strategy not a withdrawal from the market. These moves are designed to position the bank to do more for our customers and consequently reward our shareholders for their patience," he said.
Mr McEwan also said that Ulster Bank's operations in Northern Ireland will benefit from a closer integration with our personal and business franchises in the rest of the UK.

"There are meaningful synergies in terms of investment, costs and customer experience from doing this. It is essential if we are to provide a more appealing and compelling service to our customers in Northern Ireland under the Ulster Bank brand", he added.