Surveys to inform our Work Programme
A core part of the IBCB’s work is to assess and measure progress on behaviour and cultural change across the Irish banking sector. To do this, we survey bank staff and bank customers to hear their views on culture within the sector. The surveys are published under the banner ‘éist’ which means listen in the Irish language. The results of our surveys are an opportunity for both the IBCB and member banks to listen to and act on the feedback in order to improve culture. The findings of these surveys are the basis for the initiatives and activities within our Work Programme. We have set out below a summary of the key results of our 2021 and 2022 surveys.
On 17th May 2021 the IBCB launched the findings of two independent surveys of culture and trust levels in banks in Ireland. The 2021 éist Staff Culture Survey highlighted the progress that has been made across all IBCB member banks in the period since 2018. The éist Public Trust in Banking Survey 2021 was the first such report produced by the IBCB. Both reports were covered in the Annual Report in 2021 and further details of both reports is available in the publications section of our website.
2021 éist staff culture survey - key findings:
The results from the 2021 staff survey show good progress has been made on improving internal bank culture since our first survey in 2018. The staff view of the sector is one that is customer focussed, where there is no conflict between what is said and what is done, where people who make a mistake are treated fairly, where business is done ethically, and where those who have concerns feel comfortable enough to raise them.
- two thirds of people say commitment to speaking up has strengthened;
- three quarters of people say their bank gets things done for the customer, +12% points since 2018;
- 2 in every 3 people say their organisations values and actions are aligned, +10% points since 2018, and;
- 85% of colleagues say their bank does business ethically, +9% points ahead of the global financial services benchmark.
The findings also highlighted that there are still some challenges:
- one third of colleagues describe an inefficient culture that is bureaucratic, making it hard to get things done or put new ideas into action;
- More than half of staff have felt under constant strain in the last 6 months, +10% points on the global financial services benchmark, and;
- Of particular concern is the low levels of pride felt by staff working in the sector, which is very low at 57%, being 16% points behind the global financial services benchmark.
The next éist staff culture survey will be run in 2023 and will again assess progress on the above areas as well assessing other key cultural issues.
2021 éist Public Trust in Banking survey – key findings:
The éist Public Trust in Banking survey assessed public sentiment towards banks across four key drivers of trust; Integrity, Ability, Purpose, and Dependability. While 42% of those surveyed believed banks would play a critical role in Ireland’s economic recovery post Covid, and there were encouraging findings on areas such as staff competency, handling of customer data, and the continuation of product services during Covid-19, 43% said their perception of banks had worsened since 2008. While much of the trust data was clearly very challenging for banks there were some encouraging signs, especially amongst the younger people surveyed and many SME respondents.
- 32% of 18-to 34-year-olds noted their views of the banking industry had improved over the last decade,
- 18% of those aged over 45 noted their views had improved over the same period.
- 49% of SMEs surveyed, whose annual turnover exceeds €2 million said their view of the banking sector had been enhanced since 2008,
- That number dropped to 32% for those SMEs with an annual turnover of less than €2 million
Further information on the surveys can be found here:
2022 éist Public Trust in Banking survey - key findings
In July 2022 the IBCB published a further independent survey of trust levels in banks in Ireland – the second éist Public Trust in Banking survey. The survey, found that trust in the banking sector amongst the public remains very low but stable, improving slightly in comparison to the 2021 survey, which is significant given the backdrop of societal volatility and changes in the Irish banking market, against which the survey fieldwork was conducted.
The survey results point to concerns regarding the wider economy, cost of living pressures and issues around account switching due to the impending exit of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the Irish market. Increased concerns regarding the risk of fraud are also evident.
Encouragingly, levels of trust in the SME sector are moving in a positive direction against all four dimensions of trust: Ability, Integrity, Dependability, and Purpose. Replicating this across the general population and amongst the farming cohort is a key challenge.
There is an absence of trust in banking from the farming sector which requires an urgent focus by banks, and the IBCB will be playing a key role in supporting this dialogue in the period ahead. Knowing the scale of the challenge being faced is the first step in addressing it.
As highlighted by the IBCB since our inception, there is no fast fix available to reverse widespread and deeply embedded negative perceptions of banks. Progress is being made; cultural reform is clearly underway, trust levels are improving slowly, and the reality is that public acknowledgement of reform will be based on the lived experience of people’s direct dealings with the sector. Maintaining a consistent focus on customers is critical in making progress on the cultural reform process. The findings contained in the 2022 éist report provide the IBCB with an invaluable insight into the perception of retail banks in Ireland and will inform how the Board will proceed in its pursuit of cultural reform in the sector. The IBCB will continue to assess public sentiment on an ongoing basis and to act on these perspectives, and to develop initiatives within our work programme to address the findings.
The full report is available here:
Our activities on this pillar in the past year have focussed on initiatives to address some of the key findings from the éist Public Trust in Banking Survey 2021 and other research across the industry.
The Guiding Principles for Change
During the course of 2021, material announcements were made in relation to the composition of the Irish retail banking market with significant changes to branch operating models and with Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland announcing their intention to leave the market. The IBCB recognises that from time to time there will be commercial decisions taken by our member banks which may result in both negative (and positive) impacts on specific customer and/or staff cohorts. While it is not the role of the IBCB to focus on the commercial aspects of these decisions, we are of course concerned with how the changes are implemented and whether it is done in alignment with the core elements of positive behaviour and culture – fairness, transparency, and accountability. In response to these ongoing changes, in September 2021, the IBCB developed a series of Guiding Principles of Change (‘the Principles’) for our member banks to adhere to, as relevant, where there are significant changes in operating models and/or activities resulting in material impacts on bank customers, and/or staff, and/or the wider market.
The Principles are designed to facilitate material changes being carried out in accordance with the principles of good culture and are composed of five broad categories:
- 1. Behaviour & Culture;
- 2. Corporate Citizenship;
- 3. Communications;
- 4. Structured Listening and Consultation and
- 5. Supports.
Each of those areas cover the key pillars of cultural change and within each are commitments which each of our member banks have agreed to adhere to. The Guiding Principles will enable the IBCB to challenge, review and be informed and updated on member banks change programs and whether these are being managed in line with the IBCB’s overarching objectives of promoting fair and transparent outcomes for Customers and Staff, underpinned by ethics and accountability.
Guiding Principles for Customer Support for Account Closure, Opening & Moving
In May 2022 the IBCB along with the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) announced a set of further Guiding Principles agreed to by our mutual member banks for the management of the unprecedented account migration prompted by the intended exit of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the market. The principles are motivated by the necessity to protect customers and staff throughout the process of change and centre on commitments to ensure adequate resourcing, and on providing both groups with timely, clear and specific information and all necessary support. Customers impacted by the departure of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market are understandably concerned about access to banking services going forward. While there are real challenges for the industry in managing this unprecedented market change it is also recognised that the manner in which it is done will have an impact on overall trust in the sector.
Each of our member banks reports to the Board regularly on their individual adherence to the Principles and how they are managing the ongoing change, both for customers and staff. We will be assessing adherence to these Principles going forward, including through our ongoing éist trust & sentiment surveys, which are core to the IBCB’s research-based work programme, and are published regularly.
Financial awareness continues to be a key focus area for the IBCB.
In February 2022, the IBCB announced a partnership with TASC (Think-tank for Action on Social Change) and Safe Ireland, coinciding with the launch of our Guide to the Basic Bank Account, to provide financial resilience training to victims of domestic violence. This will be delivered through funding, subject matter expertise and support, in conjunction with member banks to deliver this programme. The programme will be delivered as a ‘train the trainer’ programme, which we hope will provide a lasting, nationwide impact. Safe Ireland estimates that when this training is delivered to service providers across their national network, it will benefit at least 11,000 women and over 2,500 children per year. It is widely recognised that the provision of targeted knowledge and skills in money management are a significant benefit to service users, reducing vulnerability. Enhancing the financial independence of victims of domestic violence directly creates capacity to act and to leave abusive homes – to survive and thrive. The IBCB will be working closely with TASC and Safe Ireland over the coming year to develop this programme.
In 2019 the IBCB launched the Common Commitment of Care with Member Banks, which provides for improved services for customers (and their families) who have experienced a bereavement. In the summer of 2022, we updated the Common Commitments of Care and we also included additional contact channels and we will continue to work with our member banks to make further improvements to support Bereaved customers.
The Common Commitments of Care can be found here:
Customers in a Vulnerable Position
In September 2021, the IBCB facilitated a roundtable discussion between the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) and member banks, to provide an informal opportunity to discuss areas for improvement and interaction between banks and the ISI, in support of customers in financial difficulty. The outcome of this discussion was agreement between participants in member banks and the ISI that member banks and the ISI would engage directly with each other with any feedback, in particular on the processes with Personal Insolvency Practitioners (PIPs), with a focus on improving process, communication and applying learnings to help customers who are in long-term arrears.
SME & Farmers
In January 2022 the IBCB facilitated a roundtable meeting with Microfinance Ireland (MFI) and member banks. MFI receives funding in part through our member banks and provides small loans to small businesses to help start-ups and established businesses to get the finance they need for their business. The focus of this meeting was as an initial roundtable discussion, and it was an opportunity for both the MFI and the banks to listen to and learn from each other regarding steps that can improve the overall process for micro-businesses to access loans.
The next steps following this discussion were that member banks and MFI agreed to look at means to improve referrals and capture more information, including such mechanisms as raising awareness of MFI with advisors and assessing which channels work best for customers, with each bank working directly with MFI on these details. Member banks and MFI also agreed to individually meet on a regular basis to ensure there is good communication between organisations and to assist with improving staff awareness in banks.
Our activities on this pillar in the past year have focussed on initiatives to address some of the key findings from the éist Staff Culture Survey 2021.
Éist Staff Culture Survey 2021: Virtual Staff Conversations
Over the course of July and August 2021, the IBCB conducted a series of virtual ‘Staff Conversations’ to discuss the findings from the éist Staff Culture Survey 2021 with bank staff from across our member banks. The invitation to participate was advertised by each member bank internally and participants were given the opportunity to nominate themselves to attend.
More than 50 staff from across our member banks attended the sessions which gave staff an opportunity to share their thoughts on the results, anything that surprised them, anything they expected to see and did not, and anything positive that stood out for them. A number of common themes emerged; Organisational Pride, Speaking Up, Psychological Safety, Leadership and Strain, with feedback very consistent regardless of member bank. We heard from staff their ideas on how some of the findings might be addressed by the IBCB and individual member banks. The IBCB discussed this feedback with the relevant teams within our member banks and these topics formed the basis for our following initiatives.
Speaking Up (& being heard)
As evidenced by the 2021 survey results, since 2019 there has been an improvement in staff’s confidence in the speaking up process. This is a topic that requires continual and ongoing focus, particularly to understand and overcome any potential reasons that could prevent staff from speaking up. Over the past year the IBCB has facilitated several peer-sharing sessions, focussed on non-competitive topics such as Speaking Up. The sessions allowed our member banks to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices in the context of Speaking Up. This was an ideal opportunity for our member banks to learn from one another and to ensure the industry is continually focussing on this important topic.
Proud to work in Banking
Our 2021 éist Staff Culture Survey found that Irish bank staff report lower levels of organisational pride than their peers in other jurisdictions (57% in comparison to the global financial services benchmark of 73%). Throughout Q2 2022, the IBCB has been working on a specific piece of research focussed on this topic, obtaining the views and perspectives of staff and stakeholders across the industry by:
- Conducting additional analysis on the data from our 2021 staff survey,
- Holding staff focus groups,
- 1:1 interviews with the Chief Executive Officers and Chief People Officers at our member banks, and
- Hosting in-depth sessions with the Financial Services Union and key recruiters in the industry
The research has been compiled and the IBCB’s ‘Proud to work in banking’ report was published in September 2022.
AI & Ethics
In December 2021 the IBCB facilitated a workshop on the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Ethics in Banking. This event explored the ethical challenges posed by the increasing use of AI in the banking sector, via the lens of trust and reputational risk, with a view to developing steps banks can take to mitigate against these risks and protect, and potentially enhance trust. We were joined at the event by leading international experts Prof. Hse-Yu (Iris) Chiu from University College London and Prof. Katja Langenbucher from the Goethe University of Frankfurt.
Ethics and Behaviour
Over the past year, the IBCB has engaged with our member banks to understand how the IBCB’s Ethical Decision-Making Framework, “DECiDE” (or similar in-house framework) has been working, and any further actions that may be taken to aid awareness and use of these essential frameworks. Throughout 2022 we have been designing some further materials to aid ethical decision-making which include a series of dedicated videos and some other interactive materials. The additional materials will be launched in Q4 2022 and built on further into the year ahead.
“This guide is of vital importance and a positive response from the banking sector to help prevent financial exclusion for many people in Ireland. The Guide to the Basic Bank Account is a user-friendly source of key information to support customers.”
Angela Black, IBCB Board Member and former CEO of the Citizens Information Board.
IBCB Guide to the Basic Bank Account
On 8th February 2022 the IBCB launched a Guide to the Basic Bank Account providing essential guidance for customers, and particularly customers in a vulnerable position, to apply for a bank account to support inclusion and accessibility to banking in Ireland. The guide was developed and launched with our member banks.
The IBCB undertook qualitative research in 2020 to better understand the needs and wants of people in accessing and utilising banking services. In doing so, it sought the views of organisations that support marginalised and vulnerable groups who experience difficulties accessing banking products. The research identified a clear need to raise awareness of the basic bank account as a first step towards financial inclusion across society.
A basic bank account is a current account that provides essential daily banking services, which all residents of the EU have the right to, no matter what their financial situation. The basic bank account financially empowers customers in a vulnerable position, supporting peoples’ financial freedom and providing dignity and access to a better life for many.
Our research also indicated that language barriers create further challenges for customers to access financial services. As a result, we translated the guide into Arabic, French, Lithuanian, Polish, Pashto, Urdu, Portuguese, and Mandarin. We selected these languages on the basis of an identified need to help access financial products and services. We subsequently translated the guide into Ukrainian, following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine and have provided copies of the guide to organisations supporting customers, including MABS, National Advocacy Service, Safe Ireland and the Department of Justice.
The guides can be found here:
The IBCB endorses UN Principles for Responsible Banking
On 1st June 2022 the IBCB announced its endorsement of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative Principles for Responsible Banking. These UN Principles provide a framework to ensure that the strategies and business practices of Banks align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. Signatory banks commit to embedding the UN Principles in their business and to carry out impact assessments, developing specific commitments, setting targets, and reporting on these targets.
Central to the UN Principles is a focus on sustainable banking practices which consider the needs of society and customers, to engage proactively and responsibly with stakeholders, to ensure transparency, accountability, effective governance, and a culture of responsible banking. The six UN Principles for Responsible Banking are:
- Impact and target setting;
- Clients & customers;
- Governance & culture;
- Transparency & accountability.
The IBCB believes the UN Principles are an important commitment from the banking sector to promote an environment where ethical behaviour is at the heart of banking. The UN Principles are closely aligned to the purpose of the IBCB; to work with member banks to build trustworthiness in order to assist the industry in regaining public trust.