BANK of Ireland has launched a service that it claims will protect construction companies from the withdrawal of credit in an economic downturn.

The scheme, called Safeguard, has all the attributes of an overdraft, claims the bank, with the exception that it is not repayable on demand.

The agreement can be cancelled only if the conditions of an original agreement are not met. It is available to customers for an initial two years, after which it is reviewed yearly.

The bank has also launched Spike, a stand-by credit facility that can provide up to 20% of a firm's monthly turnover if it is suffering from cash flow difficulties.