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Financial Inclusion

Background and Context

What we heard

Financial Inclusion and financial awareness for customers who need enhanced support is an area of focus for the IBCB. Financial vulnerability can occur at any time, it can be transient or permanent and many bank customers can find themselves in a vulnerable position for a range of reasons:

  • A change in personal circumstances; bereavement, divorce or separation, the breakdown of family relationships or supports
  • Issues with physical and mental health and wellbeing, including cognitive impairments, the diagnosis or onset of a serious or life-altering illness
  • A disability, which requires additional or alternative supports
  • Personal financial difficulties, including arrears and mounting debt
  • Marginalised groups, who may find it difficult to access financial services.

In our external engagement, and through our research, we have heard from customers, stakeholders, and members of the public that banks should demonstrate more support for customers in need to enhanced supports. Our priorities have been focussed on initiatives aimed at raising financial awareness and financial inclusion for such customers and undertaking more detailed research projects.

We continue to liaise closely with Safeguarding Ireland, through our role on the National Safeguarding Advisory Committee and State Payments Group. We have also engaged with MABS, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, the Open Doors Initiative, and the European Consumer Debt Network.

In 2024 the IBCB hosted a Financial Inclusion event attended by its member banks, Inclusion Ireland, people from across Ireland with intellectual disabilities and other key stakeholders. The event is part of an IBCB initiative to support people with intellectual disabilities towards financial independence. At the event we launched the IBCB Banking How To Guides (more information below).

Press Release

Last year the IBCB, in collaboration with Inclusion Ireland held customer listening sessions across Ireland to meet people with intellectual disabilities and to learn from their interactions with the IBCB’s member banks. The purpose of the initiative was to hear directly from customers with intellectual disabilities (ID) about their experiences with their bank. The insights gained provided valuable, firsthand information on how their banking needs could be met and what actions the banks could take to better support financial inclusion.
What did we hear?

Having a bank account is key for independence for customers with intellectual disabilities. Each of our member banks, among other products, offers a Basic Bank Account. A ‘basic bank account’ is a current account that allows you to have access to essential daily banking services if you do not currently have a bank account in Ireland. The IBCB has a Guide to the Basic Bank Account. This guide is for people who may need or want a basic bank account. It explains how to contact a bank, what to expect and what you must do. The IBCB and our member banks want to promote access to banking so that everyone can access financial services. The guide is written in plain English and is available in 10 languages.

One of the suggestions we heard at the sessions was to have some Banking How To guides in easy to ready (etr) format for some common banking transactions. The IBCB, along with our member banks worked with ACE Communication to create these 4 guides. The 4 guides are for making a lodgement (putting money into my account), a bank transfer (sending money from one account to another), paying a bill or rent and setting up a standing order.
Our member banks have supports available, for anyone who needs assistance with their banking.
We also heard that branches are a vitally important resource. And the importance of a trusted friendly face is important to help and provide support. Each of our member banks recognise the JAM card, and are committed to ensuring this is evident within their branches.

The IBCB conducts customer listening sessions with the purpose of hearing directly from bank
customers whose voices are not always heard in research or focus groups. In Q1 2023 the IBCB held customer listening sessions with people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID). In collaboration with Inclusion Ireland, who advocate for people with ID, we held 4 listening sessions in Tullamore, Dublin, Cork, and Sligo. The sessions were facilitated by Inclusion Ireland staff, with the IBCB in attendance and we heard from 45 people with ID about their banking needs. The sessions were both insightful and interesting and follow on activities are being progressed.

Our member banks have supports available, see below.

Irish Prison Service

The IBCB and member banks has worked with the Irish Prison Service throughout 2022 and 2023 to support financial inclusion for persons in custody.

Basic Bank Account Guide

In 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.

Click Here for more information. The guides can be found here.

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.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the IBCB highlighted the needs of vulnerable customers. Some, who experienced vulnerability prior to the pandemic faced an exacerbation of their circumstances and a significant number of bank customers have experienced vulnerability because of the impact of the virus on their health or financial circumstances. The IBCB highlighted steps taken by member banks and the banking industry to provide systemic payment breaks, followed by a range of solutions to customers experiencing difficulty in making loan repayments. We also highlighted positive steps taken by member banks to provide additional supports for customers in a vulnerable position, with specific times available for branch banking, dedicated phone lines, companion cards and other supports. In addition, we have promoted campaigns aimed at reducing financial abuse and fraud.

During 2020, we contributed to consultations related to aspects of supports for customers in a vulnerable position. In May 2020, we responded to the Law Reform Commission’s Issues Paper on ‘A Regulatory Framework for Adult Safeguarding’. The IBCB response focused on financial abuse which impacts on bank customers, bank staff, and institutions. The categories of financial abuse raised in the issues paper include thefts and scams, financial victimisation, coercion, signs of possible financial exploitation, and money management difficulties. These are issues which are also of concern to the banking industry, and all IBCB member banks have existing services in place to protect and support customers who may experience financial abuse.


Basic Bank Account Guide

customer listening sessions with people with Intellectual Disabilities

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