Sunday 20 October 2019

Your bank wants your custom - just as long as you stay at home or use ATM

Bank of Ireland's embarrassing climbdown from proposals to limit cash transactions in its branches in order to impel more of its customers to use ATM machines and online services was a welcome development, if entirely non-indicative of the real relationship between banks and customers in this country.

In concocting plans to limit over-the-counter withdrawals to €700 and lodgements to €3,000, Bank of Ireland top brass were merely pursuing a long-running policy of the sector's to reduce the point of human contact with customers as far as possible.

Predictably and rightfully, the people of Ireland reacted with fury in response to what was perceived as the latest heartless act from a lending institution against its custom base.

To list our grievances with the banks of Ireland, collective and individual, would require an endless supply of paper, of course.

The fact their apparently maniacal pursuit of profit in the Tiger years ensured Ireland would fall harder than most western democracies when the international credit lines were switched off overnight is a tale survivors will relate to future generations until the crash passes out of living memory.

Ireland thankfully has been able to pick itself up again, but only on the back of its working stiffs - those of us forced to labour harder than ever under crippling debt and swingeing taxes in order to extricate ourselves and our country from the mess.

As for the thousands of families whose emotional lives were ruined by the crash - well, that's a calamity impossible to calculate and one that is sadly still playing out in homes the length and breadth of the country as hard as it ever has.

It is argued that we all played a part in the calamity, only too ready to accept 100 per cent mortgages when they were offered. Only the banks had the full picture of the scale and irresponsible nature of the lending, however.

But just as we thought we might have been afforded some goodwill from the banks for the cost of their unprecedented bailout it appears as if we've earned nothing but their opprobrium.

Not only are home loan customers being pursued relentlessly through the courts for every last cent of what they owe, but the banks are ramping up their cost-cutting measures no end, going so far in many small towns and villages as to even close historic branches.

Ordinary Irish people accepted a hell of a lot through the response to the financial ruin, including the banks' need to cut costs. But Bank of Ireland's latest move was just too naked a ploy, showing as it did exactly how little the corporate machine cares for dealing with its human customers.

Thankfully, public pressure worked on this occasion to bring the banks to a tacit acknowledgement of their own failings. Unfortunately, public pressure means naught when real money - such as our bailout - is involved.

This latest vignette in the banking history of the country ultimately underlines how profit is king in a depressing testament to the lack of any great changes in culture or mindset.

Wexford People

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