Ahead of KBC and Ulster Bank’s impending departures from the Irish market, hundreds of thousands of customers will have to switch over their current accounts. Thankfully, there’s a new service to remove the headache from manual switching.
According to data from the Central Bank of Ireland, although the number of open accounts with the departing two banks is falling, there were still over 670,000 accounts open at the end of November, 390,000 of which are current accounts.
Of these current accounts, 190,000 are considered a customer’s primary account.
The act of switching over bank accounts can be an arduous process. The physical changing over of direct debits and standing orders can take hours, with many being dissuaded from closing the account at all, potentially leading to charges or the disruption of services.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem, and the best news is that it’s free for consumers.
What is SwitchAGENT?
SwitchAGENT is a digital account switching service that aims to automate the process of changing bank accounts.
Established by customer experience and business process heavyweights Majorel, the processes behind SwitchAGENT have actually been used for the last decade in Germany, France and Austria, with Majorel working with 6 of the 10 biggest banks in Germany alone.
Majorel’s processes are integrated into the banking interface on the continent however, meaning that the technology is incorporated into the bank’s website for ease of switching accounts.
However, in Ireland this process hasn’t exactly developed in line with European advancements, with manual switching still the bread-and-butter for traditional banks over here.
Manual switching has a number of drawbacks.
It is time consuming, requiring customers to manually change the details of every direct debit and standing order, as well as having to inform each of these payment partners of the change. On average, each customer has to inform around 12 of these merchants.
It can also lead to bottlenecks, where a large number of customers are trying to switch at the same time, as will be the case with the hundreds of thousands looking to switch their KBC or Ulster Bank accounts before their individual six month deadline.
So, how does SwitchAGENT help?
How SwitchAgent can make switching banks easier for you
SwitchAGENT is a fully automated process, so the whole experience only takes between five and ten minutes to complete.
First, find a current account that suits your needs on bonkers.ie. You can compare the main current accounts in Ireland to see which one works best for you, and it’s completely free. When you've found the right account, you can sign up online with your new provider in minutes.
But opening a new account is really just the easy part. The tough part is switching and transferring over all your direct debits and standing orders and updating creditors. That's where SwitchAGENT comes in.
A prospective customer logs into SwitchAGENT, and then authorises the transfer of data from their old bank account to SwitchAGENT. This process is facilitated by PSD2 (Payment Service Providers Directive), an EU regulation which allows for third parties to access and improve online banking services, which you may have already used with digital banking services like Revolut.
SwitchAGENT then analyses this data and presents you with a list of your direct debits, standing orders, and even creditors such as employers or social welfare services.
For bigger debtors or creditors, SwitchAGENT already has their contact information in its database, so the process is seamless. For smaller payments, like a local sports club or business, you can add in their contact details and address manually.
From there, SwitchAGENT does all the work. The customer simply chooses whether they want to notify each of the creditor or debtor about their new account details, and SwitchAGENT automatically sends out an email (or letter) to the payment partner informing them about the customer’s new details and instructing them not to credit or debit the old account.
Is SwitchAGENT a free service?
The service is 100% free for consumers.
You may be nervous about a service that’s completely free, but for SwitchAGENT, its end goal is to work with banks to integrate the processes into their infrastructure, as they do in Germany and France.
SwitchAGENT is the B2C (Business to Customer) offshoot of a process that was originally developed for B2B (Business to Business), and is a way to show that the process is worthwhile in the customer realm and to entice banks into integrating this service.
Majorel have been in talks with a number of banks in Ireland (which cannot be named as talks are ongoing) about this integration in the future, so hopefully switching bank accounts through the banks themselves will be more fluid in the future.
SwitchAGENT is hoping to have a live-tracking of the progress of a customer’s switching journey at some point in the new year, which will show how close a customer is to the full completion of the switching of their accounts.
And although the process only currently works for current accounts, there are efforts going into including other account types and enabling switching of other utilities.
If you want to switch over your current account today, head on over to switchagent.eu for more information or to sign up.
Read more about current accounts
If you are a KBC or Ulster Bank customer and want to switch your current account, read our guide on the eight things to consider when choosing a current account.
Looking to reduce your current account fees? Read our article on the nine ways to reduce your current account fees here.
For the lowdown on everything involved with KBC and Ulster Bank’s withdrawal, read our comprehensive breakdown.