KBC boss apologises for 'insensitive' comments on trackers

KBC boss apologises for 'insensitive' comments on trackers

Update 17:39

KBC Group CEO Johan Thijs has issued an apology for comments he made yesterday which drew a strong political response.

Mr Thijs said yesterday: "What is still an annoying thing is the whole tracker mortgage stuff. Honestly, I would recommend the Central Bank of Ireland, come on guys, turn the page, focus on doing business.

“We have learned our lessons, we know what to do,” Mr Thijs said.

Following calls for Mr Thijs to clarify his comments, the KBC Group CEO has issued the following statement:

“I would like to personally and sincerely apologise to our customers and to the Irish public for the offence caused by my words yesterday in relation to the tracker mortgage examination and investigation.

"I want to acknowledge the insensitivity of what I said and the manner in which it was delivered. It was unintentional and I am truly sorry for the offence caused.

"KBC has previously apologised for the way we handled tracker mortgages on behalf of our customers, many of whom were directly impacted and I would like, also personally, to formally reiterate that apology again today.

"I would also like to acknowledge the crucial role played by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) in all regulatory matters, including the tracker mortgage examination. I want to express my support and respect on behalf of KBC for the role that the CBI plays in the regulation of banking in Ireland. We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so until all matters in relation to tracker mortgages are dealt with.

"KBC are determined to act as a positive force for choice in the Irish banking sector. We are committed to the process of cultural change in banking in Ireland. While my words yesterday do not reflect that, I want to assure people that KBC and myself will do everything in its power to regain public trust. We are fully committed to further supporting the Irish economy and the Irish people. My commitment is that we do so through actions and not just words.”

Earlier: 16:48

The Finance Minister has called on the head of KBC bank to explain his comments on mortgage overcharging to those who lost their homes as a result of the scandal.

The Finance Minister has hit out at the chief executive of the Belgium bank, claiming his remarks show there is still a need for cultural change in the financial sector.

KBC Group chief executive Johan Thijs said the Central Bank's crackdown on banks who overcharged mortgage customers was "annoying" and said regulators must now "turn the page" on the controversy.

More than 40,000 customers of the country's five largest banks were impacted by the scandal, with 99 mortgage holders losing their homes.

In a conference call, Mr Thijs said: "What is still an annoying thing is the whole tracker mortgage stuff.

“Honestly, I would recommend the Central Bank of Ireland, come on guys, turn the page, focus on doing business.

“We have learned our lessons, we know what to do,” Mr Thijs said.

Asked if Mr Thijs should appologise for his remarks, Mr Donohoe said: "I believe he needs to give an acknowledgement now, of what his comments mean for the 99 people who lost their homes here in Ireland.

"Unfortunately the words from the chief executive remind me of the change that we still need to make in the culture and Irish banking.

"These words are going to be so upsetting to the 99 families in our country who've lost their homes," he said.

Speaking in Dublin's north inner city, the Minister pointed to the fact that Mr Thijs signalled the "need to move on" but at the same time the banks had dragged their feet in cooperating with the Central Bank over the scandal.

"I have acknowledged what is changing in Irish banking but I've also said that what angered me the most about what happened with the tracker mortgage scandal - and it was the scandal - was not just the issue itself but the response of the banks back to the Central Bank of Ireland when they were looking to complete their investigation into the issue.

"What was truly unacceptable, was the response back of a number of banks to the Central Bank," Mr Donohoe said.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath also called on Mr Thijs to apologise for his comments on the tracker mortgage scandal.

He said: “Mr Thijs’s comments were ill-judged, ill-informed, and deeply hurtful to the thousands of customers who have had their lives turned upside down as a result of the tracker mortgage scandal caused by the banks’ own behaviour."

“The irony is that if some banks had not dragged their feet and sought at every turn to minimise the amount of customers to be compensated, the tracker scandal could have been well closed out at this stage."

Mr McGrath also called on the Central Bank Deputy Governor to come before Finance Committee about reducing mortgage rates.

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