Paper Money

Ulster Bank issues its new polymer £20 bank note

Ulster Bank’s new £20 bank note entered circulation on Oct. 14, completing the transition of the £20 notes to polymer by Northern Ireland’s three note-issuing banks.

Images courtesy of Ulster Bank.

Ulster Bank’s new £20 bank note entered circulation Oct. 14, completing the transition of the £20 to polymer by Northern Ireland’s three note-issuing banks.

Originally, the three banks were to release their £20 notes simultaneously. The Danske Bank and Bank of Ireland polymer £20 notes were released July 20, but the Ulster Bank delayed its release.

The release of the new notes continues a transition in the United Kingdom. Bank of England and the three Scottish banks have also transitioned to the Safeguard polymer substrate provided by De La Rue. Ulster Bank’s £5 and £10 notes were launched in 2019.

The new Ulster Bank £20 note reflects local music and culture with street entertainers and their audience as well as tiles, brickwork and patterns inspired by Northern Ireland’s ubiquitous red-brick tenement buildings. Other design elements are drawn from the decorations on public buildings, corporate architecture and domestic homes in Londonderry, Belfast and other cities in Northern Ireland.

The note also incorporates the Halloween celebrations in Derry and Londonderry into the security features of the note; under a UV light, skeletons and Leisler’s bat — the largest type of bat in Ireland — can be seen.

The illustrations of the note provided by the bank and De La Rue and featured in United Kingdom media differ from the one on the website of the Association of Commercial Banknote Issuers, the organization responsible for assisting the Bank of England in coordinating currency issues in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The image provided by the former is dated “22 February 2019” with an obligation reading “Ulster Bank Limited promise to pay the bearer on demand Twenty Pounds Sterling at Head Office Belfast For Ulster Bank Limited.” The association image has a date of “1 March 2021” and a different obligation – “National Westminster Bank Plc, trading as Ulster Bank, promise to pay the bearer on demand Twenty Pounds Sterling at Belfast.”

There are two versions of the new note. A spokesperson for Ulster Bank told Coin World, “The version of the note that we (and De La Rue) provided to you is indeed the version of the note that was issued on October 14. The version on the ACBI website is also perfectly acceptable as legal currency and will start to be issued by Ulster Bank in due course once the supply of the one issued on October 14 has been exhausted. The two versions exist as a result of the name change of Ulster Bank’s parent this year to NatWest Group. The reason the ACBI website carries the version it does is that this is the one that will be printed long-term.”

Ulster Bank used the news of the new note to present results of a public survey it commissioned in September. Nearly nine in 10 people in Northern Ireland are still using bank notes and almost two-thirds envisage continuing to use them in five years’ time, although 61% say their usage has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest percentage of those surveyed said they now use a combination of cash and digital payments (42%), with only 13% saying they use digital exclusively. Two-thirds said they have had issues getting Northern Ireland notes accepted in the other parts of the United Kingdom.

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