Saturday 23 September 2017

Bring back the traditional bank manager who cares -- Mitchell

DON LAVERY and PADDY CLANCY

MEP hits out at faceless institutions as plans to close branches threaten local communities

MEP GAY Mitchell has called for the return of the "traditional" bank manager.

The former presidential candidate said Ireland's major financial institutions were losing touch with their customers and becoming faceless operations, forgetting their social and ethical responsibilities.

"I am calling for a return to traditional bank managers. Managers who can give genuine advice and take risk based on the knowledge of their client, his/her business and character," he said.

"Banks have social and ethical responsibilities. In lending money or providing savings advice, institutions must become more transparent and clearly define potential risks for customers. While taking stakeholder values into account, banks need to also consider the needs of their local communities. Supporting local economies, businesses and customers in a responsible way must be at the heart of governance," he believes.

Meanwhile, swathes of the country will soon be left without any physical banking presence after the mass closure announcements of bank branches by AIB and Permanent TSB.

But expecting people to do without any form of walk-in banking is "unfair and unworkable", the banks were told yesterday. Rural Ireland was being asked to pay disproportionately for the mistakes made by both Government and leading commercial institutions, said Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association president John Comer.

His voice joins a growing clamour by the public and business people across the country railing against the bank closures.

State-rescued AIB is the latest to cut back services to the public, with 67 branches to close across the country, while Permanent TSB is closing 16 branches.

AIB also said it was hiking its mortgage costs for customers on variable interest rates from September. The rise of 0.5pc will add €60 a month to homeowners with a €200,000 mortgage.

Around 70,000 homeowners will be affected by the rise, which was quickly followed by Bank of Ireland, and its subsidiary ICS, announcing a 0.25pc increase.

Yesterday, the president of the State's specialist dairy farmers' organisation, Mr Comer, said a great deal of anxiety would develop in those rural districts and towns whose banks had been earmarked for closure.

Mr Comer said there had to be a role for the Government in ensuring that large rural districts and sizeable towns were left with a functioning physical banking presence.

"We are not naive about the need to restore our banking system -- which we as taxpayers now largely own -- to stability and then, hopefully, profitability. But that restoration cannot be at the expense of a workable and functioning bank network that services all the people of the country equally," he said.

"Obviously there's room for An Post and AIB to engage closer and improve the services offered via the post office network, but we note that AIB is telling people that they'll be able to use their ATM/AIB debit cards at the post office, without any reference to their more elderly customers who don't use either of those facilities. What about them? Will they be able to deposit and withdraw over the counter or use cheque facilities in the manner they are used to?"

Meanwhile, Bundoran Town Council has called an emergency meeting after the decision by AIB to close its bank branch in the town.

Council chairman Philip McGlynn, who called the emergency meeting for this week, said: "Not a single businessman in Bundoran was given notice by the bank until we heard it on the news. We are really angry at the decision of AIB."

AIB boss David Duffy, meanwhile, defended the rise in mortgage costs saying the bank would still have the lowest variable rate in the market after the increase, adding that AIB mortgage portfolios were loss-making.

In newspaper advertisements the bank said it was undergoing an extensive reorganisation to ensure it was viable again and delivered a return to the Irish taxpayer, and to do this a radical programme of cost cutting, repricing and restructuring was needed.

The Irish Bank Officials' Association described the closures as "traumatic" and said AIB had shown no regard for communities and the customers it served.

Sunday Independent

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