Steps taken by Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland to proactively close customer accounts as part of their exits from the market led to an acceleration in account closures during February, new Central Bank data shows.

The scheduled transfer of KBC deposit accounts to Bank of Ireland, as part of the deal between the two lenders, also added to the numbers.

In total 185,176 accounts were shut over the four week period, a 164% increase on the previous month.

That means that a total of 881,850 accounts have been closed since the start of last year, leaving 227,694 still open in the two banks.

Of those, 80,335 are designated as primary accounts.

As a result 80% of accounts that were open at the start of last year are now either closed or designated as inactive.

In total, 1,107,083 new accounts have been opened in the remaining Irish banks - Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent - since the beginning of last year.

104,847 of those were opened during the four weeks to the end of February, up 63% compared to January.

On the savings side, household deposits held in the two exiting banks continued to decline, with total Irish resident household deposit balances in Ulster Bank and KBC Bank dropping to €3.2 billion at the end of January.

Deposits at the two lenders have now fallen by an average of €1.1 billion a month from November to January.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank has said it has seen an improvement among the banks in the performance of their customer support lines.

It follows findings last year that waiting times were too long, which led to the regulator telling banks they needed to put new measures in place to improve the customer experience.

The Central Bank said there has since been an increase in resources assigned to answering calls and a commensurate significant reduction in the number of calls that are abandoned.

It added that there has been a significant reduction in cases where people are waiting unacceptably high lengths of time to get through.