Competition watchdog halts Irish banks’ ‘Revolut rival’ for now

22 Jan 2021

Image: © Nomad_Soul/

The notification of plans by AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC to co-develop a new payment app was found to be invalid.

A plan by four of Ireland’s pillar banks to build a Revolut rival has hit a stumbling block with the competition authorities.

The banks had alerted the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to their plans to co-develop a new payments apps, but the competition watchdog has found the notification invalid.

AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC Bank Ireland intend to develop their own inter-bank payments app to rival the likes of Revolut and N26, which have eaten into their market share. A new company called Synch Payments has been established to oversee the development of the joint venture.

The CCPC, which usually vets mergers and acquisitions for any anti-competitive concerns, said that in its preliminary assessment it has been unable to gauge the scope of the Irish banks’ plans.

“As the notifying parties have failed to provide full details in the notification in relation to the nature of the proposed transaction, the CCPC has been unable to determine whether the proposed transaction is a ‘merger or acquisition’ within the meaning of section 16 of the 2002 Act,” it said, in reference to the Competition Act.

The competition watchdog was notified of the plans on a voluntary basis and it is assessing whether the banks should have notified it under its mandatory rules.

This doesn’t mean the end for Synch Payments but rather it will require more explaining from the banks. It may also put the planned summer launch on hold.

The Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), the industry group involved in coordinating the banks’ efforts, said it looks forward to engaging further with the CCPC on the matter.

Synch is hoped to claw back some consumer market share for the banks by creating an app that allows for quick and easy online payments among users, much like Revolut.

The fintech company and its rival N26 have secured strong userbases in Ireland, with the former amassing more than 1m customers.

Ulster Bank, the fifth pillar bank in Ireland, has not joined up with the banks’ venture. Its future in the country remains in doubt as parent company NatWest carries out a review on whether to wind it down.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin