HomeBussinessRevolut’s Irish mortgages are a game changer, and the banks know it

Revolut’s Irish mortgages are a game changer, and the banks know it

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This year has seen the re-emergence of non-bank lenders in the Irish market, as financing conditions on global bond markets — where they ultimately fund themselves — have eased somewhat in anticipation of official rate cuts by central banks.

ICS Mortgages, which first entered the owner-occupier loans space in 2019, has turned its lending taps back on again this year and a new entrant called Moco, owned by Austrian bank Bawag, has started to make waves. Another start-up, Nua Mortgages, is also planning a soft launch into the market imminently.

It follows a situation last year where Ireland’s three remaining banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland and PTSB, accounted for €93 for every €100 of home loans issued last year — further aided by the exits of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the market. Avant Money, owned by Spanish bank Bankinter, was the only lender that offered any meaningful competition.

But news that Revolut, the UK-based fintech, is planning to enter Irish mortgages next year — most likely in the first half — could be a game changer for competition in the market. And the banks know it.

Revolut has grown rapidly since it was set up nine years ago as a money transfer and foreign exchange business to become a sprawling group offering services ranging from cryptocurrency trading to insurance.

Nowhere has it been more successful in making inroads into a market than the Republic, where it had built up a customer base of 2.7 million as of last December and Revolut has long become a verb. The company says it is on track to hit three million users this year, equivalent to almost three-quarters of people over the age of 18 living in the State.

“The market reach that we have means that if you’re a first-time buyer or a second-time buyer or someone looking to switch, you probably already have a Revolut account,” Joe Heneghan, chief executive of Revolut Europe, which operates on a pan-euro zone basis from a Lithuanian banking licence.

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Its reach is greater than Bank of Ireland, which has over two million customers in the Republic and is only eclipsed by AIB, which has a base of 3.3 million.

Funding isn’t an issue. Revolut had $22 billion of customer balances (including over $19 billion of deposits) globally at the end of last year but only $680 million of loans, primarily in the personal lending and credit cards space.

The assumption among mortgage brokers is that Revolut will offer mortgages directly — though industry sources say there seems to be an acceptance at the company that potential customers will want to be able to speak to someone about one of the most important financial transactions of their lives.

“No final decision on how we execute mortgages has been made just yet,” said a spokesman. “However, the team are working tirelessly to bring this to the Irish market, where we feel we can have a significant impact. Ultimately, we want to bring the great experience our customers have with our other products to mortgages.”

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