A commitment by banks to adhere to policies on how they are dealing with the closures of Ulster and KBC banks was dismissed as “empty words”.
The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland and the Irish Banking Culture Board have announced a set of guiding principles agreed by retail banks to help manage the upheaval in the industry following the two banks’ withdrawals.
The five retail banks have committed to clear and timely communication, resource allocation and a commitment to make the transition fair and transparent given the industry’s unique societal role and responsibilities.
But consumer advocate Brendan Burgess said the announcement months after Ulster Bank and KBC announced their exits was meaningless as affected consumers are already facing major obstacles in opening new accounts.
It comes as Ulster Bank is writing to its customers to give them six months to close their checking accounts and find new providers. KBC customers have six months from June if the letters are to go to them.
AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank have all agreed on the new principles.
The banks said the challenges banks are facing due to the imminent exit of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the market is an opportunity for the industry to show its commitment to continue restoring confidence in the sector.
But Mr Burgess said of the commitments: “Those are empty words.”
He said the Irish Banking Culture Board had reached agreement on what banks should be doing anyway.
“These guidelines make absolutely no sense. They are just a statement of the obvious.
“There are empty words, especially since people are finding it so difficult to open new accounts.”
He said AIB is particularly bad at making it easier to open new accounts, and some people complained about it at AIB’s AGM this week.
Marion Kelly, chief executive of the Irish Banking Culture Board, said customers affected by Ulster Bank and KBC’s exit from the Irish market are understandably concerned about access to banking services.
“While there are real challenges for the industry in managing this unprecedented market shift, it is also recognized that how this is done will have an impact on overall confidence in the industry.”
Guiding principles include a commitment to using appropriate resources to meet account closure, opening and relocation demand.
The principles also state that clear and specific information is provided to customers about the options available to shift their banking services and that appropriate support is available to customers who need special assistance.
The information provided must be clear, with all technical terms fully explained, easily accessible and provided regularly where relevant.
Under the principles, customers will be provided with contact details for further information, including opening hours and access options, and the requirements for accessing different banking products will be clearly communicated to the customer.
They said front-line staff must be given clear instructions on how to process customer applications, with no customer being denied access to banking services, subject to compliance with legal and regulatory obligations.
Brian Hayes, head of the Banking and Payments Federation, insisted banks hire hundreds of extra staff to handle the opening of thousands of additional accounts.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/banking/initiative-on-moving-accounts-dismissed-as-empty-words-amid-bank-exits-41623616.html Initiative to switch accounts when leaving a bank dismissed as “empty words”.