Bank of Ireland is to begin rolling out its long-awaited new customer app from the end of this month. 

The bank told shareholders during its virtual AGM this morning that the app went live and was tested among staff in December. 

It had planned a large scale rollout in March, but the Covid-19 pandemic crisis meant this was no longer possible as resources had to be diverted to deal with the emergency. 

However, the lender now plans to roll out the new technology, which has a 50% increase in functionality, later this month, with Android users getting access first. 

Bank of Ireland has been carrying out a significant revamp of its old IT structures over the last couple of years in order to position it for a future where banking is increasingly conducted through digital channels. 

However, the transformation has taken longer than expected and the size of the budget has increased along the way.

So far €0.9 billion of the €1.4bn budget has been spent, it revealed. 

The bank says the plan remains on budget and cost savings and benefits are starting to flow from the transformation. 

A number of key milestones have been delivered, the bank says, including the migration of 2.1 million customers to a new platform for debit and ATM transactions. 

100 processes have also been automated and the payments infrastructure modernised.

Bank of Ireland's chief executive Francesca McDonagh told the meeting that Covid-19 had hit its markets fast and hard. 

She said the first quarter results published last week show the bank had a good start to the year pre-Covid with lending growth, the issuance of more than a quarter of all new mortgages in Ireland, reduced bad loans and continued progress in cost management. 
"However, as we also set out in our statement, Covid will have a material impact on our financial performance through lower lending and business activity and through higher impairments," she stated. 
"We entered this crisis in a strong capital position, with a CET 1 ratio of 13.5%. Our CET 1 ratio will remain above previous regulatory capital requirements and that's across a range of possible Covid scenarios," the CEO said.

"We have the capital and we have the liquidity to further support our customers in the times ahead," she added.

Ms McDonagh outlined in detail the steps taken by the bank to assist customers, staff and the wider community through the pandemic. 

The bank boss said 70% of employees are now working from home full-time and this has been made possible by the rollout of "agile" ways of working that have been rolled out since 2018.

Ms McDonagh said the banks sees three phases to the recovery from the shock generated by the pandemic.

She said Horizon 1 had involved a comprehensive, practical and resilient response during the initial months of the crisis.

"But we're also preparing for Horizon 2 when restrictions start to ease and Horizon 3 the 'new normal', whatever that may be," she said.

Ms McDonagh also said that having taken the decision not to pay a dividend for 2019, the group will assess its policy around dividends at a future date, the earliest of which would be October 1 this year.