Central Bank report analysis: Ignoring the number one consumer bank issue

Eamon Quinn

Those with long memories will recall that reports seeking out to uncover poor banking culture and bad behaviour towards their own customers at Irish banks are not new.

Long before the disastrous banking crisis led to the €64bn banking bailout, a leading bank had commissioned its own.

AIB sought out a report by consultants into its banking culture in 2002, after the bank hit the world headlines by losing $691m because of the rogue activities of trader John Rusnak, who was unfettered by weak controls inside its Allfirst Bank in the US.

Sixteen years later and the Central Bank’s report into the poor customer culture at the Irish banks has a better chance of improving standards.

The report, Behaviour and Culture of the Irish Retail Banks, came about following the public outcry and the embarrassment of the Central Bank and Government over the tracker mortgage scandal. It envisages a new regulatory regime in which individual bankers take responsibility for future failings.

The report focuses on fixing behaviour towards consumers but fails to address the number one consumer issue in Irish banking: Lenders here charge Irish customers the highest mortgage interest rates and charge SMEs among the most expensive loans in the eurozone.

Senior economist Jim Power welcomed the report but doubted whether it will usher in radical change.

“It is important to highlight the culture that exists. The culture has always been bad but little will change,” Mr Power said, adding that lenders are focused on turning customers away from branches and getting them online.

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