KBC Ireland chief: Brexit still 'a big sword of Damocles' despite upbeat outlook for economy

The outlook for the Irish economy is favourable in the short-term but Brexit is still "a big sword of Damocles" for growth, the new KBC Ireland chief executive has said.

Peter Roebben told TDs and Senators at the Oireachtas Finance Committee that "it could go in any direction" in relation to Brexit but that KBC was retaining its "quite upbeat" outlook for now.

"While the recently agreed extension to the UK’s withdrawal provides some breathing space, much uncertainty remains. To this point, we have seen no material effect on KBC activity or our customers relationship with us. The nature and scale of the long-term impact of Brexit on Ireland will depend on a range of factors. We remain however watchful," he said.

Mr Roebben said KBC Ireland's role in the tracker mortgage scandal went "much further and deeper" than it should have, that it had been "explicitly discussed" with the top 300 management in the overall group in Belgium to make sure there was "a total seachange" to make sure it did not happen again.

The bank was committed to ensuring voices were heard not just "from the top down, but the bottom up and horizontally" to ensure good practice and to avoid scandals like the tracker one, he said.

The €1bn tracker scandal happened when almost 40,000 Irish customers were wrongly put on more expensive loans by more than a dozen lenders over a number of years.

Some 4% of affected KBC Ireland customers, or 149, are still to be contacted but 96% have been paid redress and compensation, the bank said.

Mr Roebben said he wanted to "sincerely apologise" as one of his first acts as new chief executive.

The bank's retail banking executive director Dara Deering told the committee that nine out of 10 customers do not engage face to face, but rather online.

More customers are choosing video link as well as online banking, while so-called mobile wallets, such as transactions through Apple or Fitbit Pay, now consist of 6% of transactions.

A mobile wallet is a virtual wallet that stores payment card information on a mobile device.

Some 40% of its transactions are done by card-tapping, Ms Deering said.

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