First Active

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First Active Plc
HeadquartersFormerly throughout Ireland, HQ in Dublin
Number of employees
700 (2004)
ParentUlster Bank Group, ultimately Royal Bank of Scotland Group

First Active was an Irish bank, and former building society which was merged into Ulster Bank in late 2009, ceasing trading in February 2010. It traditionally offered a range of mortgages (including subprime mortgages), savings, investment, pension and life assurance products, but from 2007 onwards, also offered credit cards, ATM accounts and current accounts as well as online banking and Laser/Maestro debit cards.


First Active was founded in 1861 as the Workingman's Benefit Building Society. It was incorporated in Ireland in 1875 under the Building Societies Act, 1874. In 1960 the name of the Society was changed to First National Building Society. Over a period of years First National grew both organically, through expansion of its branch network, and by the acquisition of the business of five small building societies:

  • Grafton Savings and Building Society, acquired in 1974
  • The Guinness Permanent Building Society, acquired in 1984
  • Ireland Benefit Building Society, acquired in 1984
  • Irish Life Building Society, acquired in 1993, and
  • Postal Service Permanent Building Society, acquired in 1985.[1]

In 1994 First National acquired Mortgage Trust Limited, a UK centralised mortgage lending business. In 1995 a deposit taking subsidiary commenced business in Guernsey, Channel Islands. The Group's UK operations were expanded in 1996 through the acquisition of The Mortgage Corporation. A retail deposit taking operation was established in England in 1996 to obtain sterling deposits to fund the Group's growing mortgage business in the UK.

At the 1998 Annual General Meeting the members voted to convert to a public limited company and to list the Company shares on the Irish and London Stock Exchange. Conversion occurred on 7 September 1998, the shares were listed on 6 October 1998 and simultaneously the company raised IR£132 million in new capital from existing members and from the institutional markets.

Between September 2000 and December 2002 First Active sold its investments in First Active Financial in the UK to Britannic Assurance plc.

From the 1990s, it used an advertising campaign which involved contradicting received knowledge about finance. Examples included the First Active representative telling "Most people" that there's no need to keep switching mortgage companies, finding "whoever said that you need to keep switching mortgages in order to get the best deal", and finding where it is written that it takes ages to get a decision on your mortgage.

On 5 January 2004, First Active became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which also owns Ulster Bank. The same year, Tesco Bank also began offering products provided by First Active.

On 26 January 2009, it was announced that First Active would cease to operate as a separate entity and its operations would be merged with those of Ulster Bank, with the loss of 750 jobs (550 in the Republic of Ireland and 200 in Northern Ireland). From September 2009, it ceased offering any new products to customers in preparation for the merger.


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