Ulster Bank still to redress 2,600 customers

By Pádraig Hoare

The Central Bank should “kick the ass of every bank up and down the country” for perpetuating “a culture that hasn’t changed”, bosses of Ulster Bank were told as it conceded 2,000 customers remain on the wrong tracker mortgage rate.

Interim chief executive of Ulster Bank, Paul Stanley was speaking to members of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, confirming of the 3,490 customers originally identified as being impacted by the tracker scandal, 2,900 have been redressed and compensated.

The “vast majority of the remaining customers in this group” will be redressed by the end of June with a small number completed in July, Mr Stanley said.

However 2,000 additional customers identified in April remain on the wrong rate and some will not see redress and compensation until the final quarter of the year, he told TDs and senators.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said some customers have been on the bank’s system for two years, but are still being overcharged.

“Progress is painfully slow. There are still close to half of those impacted not redressed. The fact it has taken so long does not inspire confidence,” he said.

Committee chairman John McGuinness blasted Ulster Bank, saying he hoped the Central Bank’s forthcoming banking culture review would be scathing of the whole sector, while Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway Walsh said she had “serious concerns” about the competency of Ulster Bank over the tracker scandal.

Mr McGuinness said: “The underlying culture hasn’t changed. Banks collectively ruined families and businesses in this country. It is unforgivable. It is shocking that the culture is still there. I hope the Central Bank kicks the ass of banks up and down this country.

“There seems to be a culture in your bank to disregard customers that continues to this day. When questions are put to you here about individual cases, it is the banks that are wrong, not the customer. You say it is essential to rebuild trust but your customers are actually saying your helpline is actually helpless.

“People with no response from the bank after 11 months. Phonecalls not returned. I wonder how you’re in business.” Ms Conway Walsh said the committee had been “patient and overpatient” but there was little point to the helpline because no information for many customers was forthcoming.

Mr Stanley said the bank was getting close to closure on the tracker issue. “We are marginally behind where we said we would be. We don’t just talk, we do it,” he said.

Ulster Bank may end up selling more than €1.6bn of non-performing loans if it is to meet ECB targets of 5% to 6% by 2020, Mr Stanley said. Its ratio is at 17% and the sale of €900m worth of owner- occupied home loans and €700m of buy-to-let loans would bring down its rate to 11%, Mr Stanley said.

“Not all mortgages are sustainable and we are obliged to reduce the level of non-performing loans on our balance sheet. For mortgages that are not sustainable, additional forbearance will not bring them back to a performing position,” he said.

Managing director of retail banking Ciaran Coyle told the committee that an error that caused customers to have money disappear from their accounts in April was not caused by an IT issue, but an inadvertent error by an employee of its parent RBS in the UK.

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