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“Banks should not need a ‘Culture Board’ to tell them what respect and honesty look like.’” Mattie McGrath

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Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that he is deeply sceptical about the capacity of the newly established Irish Banking Culture Board to affect the kind of attitudinal change and reform that is urgently required. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the launch of the IBCB by its inaugural Chairman, Mr Justice John Hedigan:

“The only logic that Banks understand is that of cold hard cash and looking after the bottom line.

So all their talk about a new found social responsibility and customer focus is absolutely galling to listen to when you are someone, as I am, who has been dealing with the reality of the Banks total indifference to human suffering every day of every week for the last number of years.

We know that this new Culture Board was established on foot of the findings of a Banking Standards Board (BSB) Employee Survey that ran in 2018 and that it was commissioned by the CEOs of five Irish banks (Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank).

That survey revealed the scale of the toxic practices and indeed the toxic mind-set that has become embedded within the Banks operating here.

It sought answers to questions like, how far a bank demonstrated such characteristics as honesty, respect and accountability. In other words; the characteristics that would be expected to be associated with any good culture and fair customer outcomes in banking.

The reality is however that Banks continue to operate according to policies that involve even the ruthless pursuit of long standing customers who have always acted in good faith.

Just last week I and my colleagues, Michael Collins and Carol Nolan had a meeting with KBC. We were informed before the meeting, and on the basis that we would respect this staff member’s anonymity that Senior Bank personnel at KBC are literally laughing at attempts by the Oireachtas to hold them to account.

So forgive me for thinking if this latest attempt to ‘change the culture in our banks’ is little more than highly organised spin; especially when the Central Bank itself is telling us that the IBCB is “not a substitute for effective regulation, assertive supervision and robust enforcement”, concluded Deputy McGrath.

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