Annual Report
2020 – 2021

Annual Report
2020 – 2021

2021 éist surveys

2021 éist Surveys & Launch

Éist is the name carefully chosen for the staff and public sentiment surveys commissioned by the IBCB this year. It means ‘listen’ in the Irish language. We will listen to and learn from what staff and the public tell us concerning current culture in the Irish banking sector.

A core part of the IBCB’s  work is to assess and measure progress on behaviour and cultural change across the Irish banking sector.

In February and March 2021 we conducted two independent, bespoke surveys of bank staff and customers in relation to the culture they experience in their banks under the banner ‘éist’. Éist is an Irish language word which means listen, and the results of the surveys are an opportunity for both the IBCB and member banks to listen to and act on the feedback in both the bank staff and customer surveys in order to improve culture.

The éist surveys are both a benchmark against our previous research conducted in 2018 allowing us to see where the industry has made progress and where it must improve and a framework that will inform our ongoing work programme. 

Only cultural change that comes from within can be authentic and sustainable. We are pleased our Bank Staff survey results show progress being made internally across all IBCB member banks since 2018. It is clear, however, from results of our Public Trust in Banking survey, that internal changes in culture have yet to resonate externally with a significant majority of bank customers and the public in general. Achieving this is crucial for the future of the industry and for overall pride levels of staff. Trust is the key currency of change in the banking sector, and it must be earned by the banks to be recognised by the public.

We published the results of both surveys at an event on the 17 May 2021. More detail on the results of each survey is set out below and on our website.

The full recording of our launch event can be found on our website:

éist Staff Survey
éist Public Trust in Banking Survey
Paschal Donohoe éist survey launch event

“I would like to recognise the important role of the Irish Banking Culture Board in seeking to rebuild trust in the banking sector through its work and various initiatives. This event today to mark the publication of their two surveys is one of those important initiatives. The reports show that while cultural change is occurring in the banking system that more needs to be done. While there is broad agreement that trust needs to be rebuilt where our banks and financial institutions are concerned, there also needs to be recognition when and where change occurs and an acknowledgment of progress when it is being made across the banking and financial system in Ireland now and in the period ahead..”

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, TD, Keynote speaker at the éist survey launch event in May 2021

éist Staff Survey

In October 2018, the Establishment Office of the IBCB commissioned the UK Banking Standards Board to conduct the first culture survey of Irish bank staff. The survey focused on exploring bank staff’s views on a range of issues which lie at the heart of banking culture. The findings of that survey helped inform elements of the IBCB’s work programme, including staff events on Speaking Up, Staff Pressures and Resilience, and Ethics.

In 2021, the IBCB commissioned Karian and Box to design and conduct the second staff culture survey, now re-branded as the éist industry staff survey. The survey was conducted during the Spring of 2021 a period characterised by immense pressures for many bank customers, staff and the wider economy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  In addition, there were a number of material announcements from IBCB member banks during this period which will result in changes to organisational structures and the wider banking market in Ireland. 

These announcements will have both direct and indirect consequences for many customers and staff and wider stakeholders. These results are therefore very timely and give real insight into culture in a crisis – which is its real test.

The Karian and Box methodology assesses core behavioural traits: Psychological safety; Risk based decision making; Accountability; Diversity of thinking, and a number of critical cultural drivers: Performance management; Aligned processes; Strategic direction; Tone from the top/Leadership behaviours. The survey also included a focus on protecting and promoting the best interests of customers; and Integrity & Ethics.

10,648 staff participated in the survey, which is almost 50% of all staff across our member banks. We are very pleased that the results show real progress on cultural change has been made across all IBCB member banks in the period since 2018 – a strong emphasis on the customer is evident across all 5 banks and there has been a material improvement in staff’s confidence levels in Speaking Up – which is core to an effective culture.

  • Staff across the sector reported material improvements in how their organisation does business – of particular note is that 85% of staff consider that in their bank, people do business in an ethical manner – this is well ahead of the global FS benchmark – by a full 9 percentage points;
  • Related to this is a 10-point improvement since 2018 in staff’s perception of the alignment between their bank’s stated values and how it does business – or in other words what is said and what is done;
  • 3 in 5 bank staff (58%) feel that their organisation’s commitment to building a speak-up culture has strengthened and importantly there has been a 10-point increase to 69% of those who had a concern and felt comfortable to raise it in the period;
  • A further very positive finding for the Irish sector is that 75% of staff report that people who make a mistake are treated fairly – this is a key indicator of culture – reflective of ‘organisational justice’ and is 3 points ahead of the global benchmark;
  • Overall, two thirds of bank staff are positive about the day-to-day culture in their organisation – in particular, emphasising a strong customer focus and risk awareness across the sector. However, while this score has improved since 2018, it remains below the global FS benchmark (by 12 points) pointing to continued room for improvement.

Specific areas where the Irish sector scores lower than the FS benchmark relate primarily to the more operational aspects of internal bank culture – staff have cited bureaucracy, inefficient processes and procedures as areas that need to be addressed.  The survey results point to a need for senior leaders to do more to really role-model the right behaviours – particularly as regards ways of working such as the need to manage workload, long hours and the right to disconnect.

The survey also looked to assess overall wellbeing and causes of strain for staff, particularly relevant in the context of some of the pressures on staff as a result of the pandemic, including remote working, home schooling, financial and health stresses. 53% of bank staff reported that, in the past 6 months, they have felt under constant strain at work – concerningly this is 10 points above the global norm and a vital area to address.

Of particular note, 57% of bank staff have stated that they are proud to tell others where they work – this is 16 points behind the global benchmark and clearly of real concern. It is imperative that this be examined further and addressed as the banking industry needs to attract and retain staff who have a strong sense of pride, both in the industry and their employer, for it to flourish into the future.

The results of the Bank Staff survey will shape the areas of focus in our work programme in 2021/22 and beyond. We intend conducting this survey on two year intervals.

The full recording of our launch event can be found on our website:

éist Public Trust in Banking Survey

In 2021, the IBCB commissioned our first ever survey of Public Trust in Banking. Following a tender process, we selected Edelman Data and Intelligence to design and conduct the survey using their globally recognised methodology for assessing trust – the Edelman Trust Management Diagnostic. Through application of the Edelman methodology, we can benchmark the findings for Irish banking with comparative international data. This allows us to gauge how the Irish industry compares globally on key aspects of culture and behaviour and overall trust. Our previous Public and Stakeholder Consultation report in 2019 was a qualitative report, which gave us insight into areas of concern from members of the public and stakeholders.  Our éist Public Trust in Banking Survey provides us with quantitative information, with a repeatable methodology to allow us to measure and monitor public trust in banking over time.

As with the Staff survey, this survey was conducted during the Spring of 2021 a period characterised by immense pressures for many bank customers, staff and the wider economy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there were a number of material announcements from IBCB member banks during this period which will result in changes to organisational structures and the wider banking market in Ireland.

The survey took the form of an online questionnaire, with 1,007 members of the general population of Ireland and over 251 Irish SME business decision-makers or owners, with a particular focus on micro businesses (defined as having an annual turnover of up to €2,000,000). The Edelman Net Trust Score (ENTS) provides a singular, numerical score of the sector or organisation’s trust level and where it’s heading, broken down into high, neutral, and low trust. ENTS is calculated by high trust minus low trust. The ENTS score is measured using four key trust dimensions; Ability, Dependability, Integrity, and Purpose.

The survey shows that trust levels in Irish banking remain low and are significantly behind the global benchmark. The Irish industry scores a composite score of -28 which compares with +16 for the global benchmark.  An interesting insight points to trust levels increasing when comparing ‘the banks’ (-28) in other words, views of the overall industry, versus views of ‘my bank’ (-10) and ‘my branch’ (-5).  This points to the impact of continued entrenched views about the overall sector that are difficult to change, but much better trust levels in the individual bank that the customer does business with, and trust levels being greater again where there is a local dimension and interaction. The results show that many of the concerns we heard in our 2019 Public and Stakeholder Consultation report remain areas of concern for customers today.

  • There are clear differences in levels of trust in banks across age groups, with the younger demographic (18-24) expressing greater levels of trust than older age groups;
  • Trust levels are lower for those living in rural areas compared with urban areas;
  • SMEs report higher levels of trust in banks than the general population, albeit still low from an international perspective;
  • Within the SME population, micro enterprises are less trusting and emphasise their need for more direct accessibility and engagement with their banks.
  • Customers are concerned about the reduced ‘human interface’ of banks and how this impacts their day-to-day relationship with their bank, particularly in rural Ireland. There remain significant concerns from a number of customer groups regarding integrity and how the industry supports customers in a vulnerable position and smaller businesses. 
  • Positives include sentiment relating to the quality of service and products, the competence of staff and sentiment towards branches, which offer real opportunity for the industry to build on, to help the journey towards rebuilding trust and leverage the positive developments as indicated by the findings of the staff survey.

An area of disappointment was that despite the supports put in place by the industry during the pandemic via payment breaks, additional supports for customers in vulnerable positions and schemes such as the SBCI Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, which involved significant effort from staff at all levels, in particular in front line branches, this has not resulted in an overall improvement in trust levels. The results show a small minority (higher in SMEs) who report that their trust levels in banks have increased during the pandemic and point to an opportunity for the sector to build on this via continued supports for customers through the next phase of dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic on the economy. Overall, it is clear that there remains significant levels of mistrust with much of the public and changing this perception is very difficult.

The survey breaks down perceptions of trust in IBCB member banks using the four trust dimensions. Again, we see variances between age groups, between members of the general population and SMEs.

  • Ability and Integrity are the main drivers of trust with the general population. IBCB members perform best generally in Ability measures but score lower on perceptions of critical Integrity behaviours;
  • For SMEs, Ability and Dependability are the main drivers of trust. Looking at these scores from the perspective of SMEs, IBCB member banks perform better on measures of Ability but score lower on Dependability & Accountability.

The results of the Public Trust in Banking Survey will shape the areas of focus in our work programme in 2021/22 and beyond. We intend conducting this survey on an annual basis.

The full recording of our launch event can be found on our website: