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Monday 5 December 2016

Bank of Ireland boss: we got it wrong on trackers

Published 07/10/2015 | 02:30

Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher, and Edel Browne of Free Feet, launch StartLab in
Galway yesterday. StartLab is an incubator program for tech start-ups in Galway and the surrounding region
Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher, and Edel Browne of Free Feet, launch StartLab in Galway yesterday. StartLab is an incubator program for tech start-ups in Galway and the surrounding region

The CEO of Bank of Ireland has admitted they got it wrong when they sent letters to thousands of tracker mortgage customers urging them to move to a fixed rate.

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Richie Boucher said the incident had been "a genuine mistake" and one the bank had learned from.

Speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent, Mr Boucher also revealed that the bank has seen a surge in consumer confidence in the past year - and said the Banking Inquiry had been necessary.

Last month, the bank was forced to send a letter of apology to tracker mortgage customers after it wrote to all mortgage customers informing them it had lowered its fixed rates. While it included customers on tracker mortgages, it made no mention of the cost and implications of giving up a tracker which it is required to do.

"These things happen. It was a genuine mistake on our part. We thought we should communicate with everyone.

"We should have given a little bit more oversight, but we did feel that sometimes you have this balance between saying you must give the same message to everyone and then trying to tailor it and we could have done better. We've learnt from this," he said.

Mr Boucher, who launched StartLab Galway powered by Bank of Ireland, said while the bank sold the idea of Ireland's recovery internationally as far back as 2011, it wasn't until last year that Irish customers regained confidence.

"When we re-capitalised in 2011, one of the big things for us was the confidence was external to Ireland.

"These were hard-headed capitalists, we had to sell them the idea that we thought Ireland would recover. They obviously bought into that idea, so it was more a macro thing and the export sector had continued to be strong.

"I think it's in the last 12 to 15 months where you've seen the consumer confidence returning. We're seeing that in all sorts of parts of our business," he said.

He pointed to a "significant" increase in motor finance, specifically for commercial vehicles, including companies changing their fleets, in July.

Mistakes

"We're just seeing a general uplift in the economy as confidence returns. And it's not confined to any one particular sector or one particular region. Obviously they are moving at different paces, but in general terms there is a slightly higher level of confidence," he added.

Asked if public confidence was affected by the Banking Inquiry, Mr Boucher said: "It's hard for me to comment on that. I think these things are always necessary for people."

Irish Independent

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