It's fair to say news that KBC is possibly set to exit the Irish market has come as a bolt from the blue.

It comes just weeks after Ulster Bank announced its intention to quit the Irish market over the coming years, possibly leaving just three main lenders in the Irish market in due course.

KBC customers have been assured by the bank's CEO here that there is no need to make any change just now.

However, there's no denying that it's an anxious time for the bank's customers and staff and leaves them in an uncertain position.

Should I just change provider now and end the uncertainty?

No. Firstly, it's not yet a foregone conclusion that the bank is leaving the market.

It's still in discussion with Bank of Ireland about acquiring its "performing loans and liabilities".

It has a significant non-performing loan book that must be dealt with too.

So any departure is likely to be of the order of years.

Financial planner Eoin McGee referenced Danske Bank as an example.

It announced its intention to quit the Irish market in 2013 and it's still here, albeit in a much reduced fashion.

"There's no need to panic about this. There's no need to make any moves," he told Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio this morning.

I'm due to draw down my mortgage with KBC next week. Should I proceed?

By all means, yes. It's business as usual at the bank.

Even if you draw down the loan and it moves to another lender in due course, there will be no changes to the terms of the loan.

"Mortgage and personal loan customers won't see any changes to their repayment terms or interest rate. This is true regardless of whether their loans are eventually sold to Bank of Ireland, a new lender, or even a so-called vulture fund," said Daragh Cassidy, Head of Communications with the consumer comparison website,

And anyone who is engaging with the bank on the terms of a non-performing loan was reassured by the Minister for Finance that any lender that ended up acquiring the loan would have a responsibility to deal with those borrowings under the terms of the contracts.

I was considering moving to KBC from Ulster Bank. What should I do?

Daragh Cassidy said there was plenty of anecdotal talk of customers having already made the switch.

This latest development perhaps emphasises why it's a good idea to not jump too hastily when such announcements are made.

If you're a customer of KBC, or indeed a customer of Ulster Bank, there's no need to switch at any point in the immediate future.

However, if there's a particularly compelling offer available from another bank on mortgages or current accounts, only then might you consider moving.

"You should always be looking at your mortgage and your bank account and seeing if there are better options out there," Eoin McGee said.

"The one thing that drives down interest rates is moving from one bank to another."

Competition also drives rate down. Are we in danger of becoming an uncompetitive market?

Certainly from the point of view of traditional 'main street' banks, we're looking a little light on competition if this move proceeds.

As well as Ulster Bank's branch presence presumably disappearing in the coming years, Bank of Ireland has announced that it's shutting 88 branches in the Republic in the coming months.

AIB consolidated its branch network in the early years of the last decade.

KBC did not have a significant branch network here. It has just 12 'hubs' around the country (having announced the closure of four last year) and conducts much of its operations in the digital sphere.

This is where the bulk of banking services will likely be offered in the years ahead with online service providers like Revolut and N26 making strides in the area of current accounts and payments. (N26 has a full European banking licence and is regulated by the Central Bank.)

Avant Money, which had solely operated in card payments here up to a few months ago, entered the mortgage market with some very competitive rates.

"Even after Ulster Bank and KBC's planned exits, there are eight other current account providers in Ireland, several credit card providers and eight other mortgage lenders. So choice and better value, although dwindling, is out there if consumers are prepared to take the time to compare the market and do some research," Daragh Cassidy pointed out.

However, there's no denying that this potentially amounts to a significant hit to competition in Irish banking.

Why is the Irish banking market so unattractive to international lenders?

It's an interesting question given that we have among the highest mortgage interest rates in Europe.

At first glance, one would say that this has to be an attractive market in which to lend.

A study from the Banking and Payments Federation, published around the time of Ulster Bank's announcement of its intention to withdraw from the market here, claimed that Irish banks are forced to hold three times the amount of capital as their European counterparts.

It said the reserve requirements for Irish banks were "trapped at levels of the financial crisis" and that this situation was adding to the cost of lending and mortgages here.

The difficulty that banks have in repossessing a property where the loan isn't being repaid is undoubtedly another factor.