Ireland's banks have "a distance to travel" to become more customer focused, according to a new report by the Central Bank. 

The report on the behaviour and culture in banks was requested by the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe following the tracker mortgage controversy. 

The Central Bank is seeking legislative changes to give it more powers to ensure a change in the culture of banks.

The review into the culture of Bank of Ireland, AIB, Permanent TSB, KBC Ireland and Ulster Bank, was conducted from the perspective of the customer. 

It was conducted in collaboration with the Dutch Central Bank, and it focused on the bank's executive leadership teams.

The review found that all banks "have significant distances to travel" to become more focused on the consumer. 

It found bank executives continue to operate in a "firefighting mode", and are struggling to transition from the mindset of the banking crisis.

It is also concerned that banks see it as an achievement that they have emerged from the crisis, and this has led to over-optimisim which means banks may underestimate the work required to change for their customers' benefit.

The Central Bank wants each bank to deliver action plans to address the risks it has identified.

It also recommends the introduction of legislation to support an Individual Accountability Framework, setting conduct standards for staff and ensuring clearer lines of accountability within firms.

Derville Rowland, Director General Financial Conduct at the Central Bank, said effective organisational culture builds on shared purpose and standards such as professionalism, honesty, integrity and accountability to deliver fair outcomes that have the interests of consumers at heart. 

"The Central Bank expects to see such standards and values embedded in all the firms we regulate," she said. 

"Firms can expect that we will continue to prioritise these issues. We will be requiring the banks to develop programmes to address the issues identified in the report, and we will be monitoring the appropriateness and implementation of these programmes. 

"We are also proposing the introduction of an Individual Accountability Framework, and we will be conducting more frequent, targeted conduct supervision, including robust challenge of boards and executive management," she said.

Ms Rowland said there is there is no magic wand to solve these issues all at once. 

"Cultural issues take time to work through, so this will be very much ongoing and continuous multi-year supervisory work rather than a once-off, immediate solution," she stated.

Bank of Ireland commits to playing its part in cultural improvement across banking industry

Bank of Ireland has said it is strongly committed to continuing to improve culture within the bank and to playing its part in cultural improvement across the wider sector.

To this end, the bank said it is supporting the establishment of an independent Irish Banking Culture Board.  

Underlining that commitment, a senior Bank of Ireland executive - Marion Kelly - has been seconded to lead the next phase of the Irish Banking Culture Board's establishment in the role of Programme Director.  

Francesca McDonagh, Bank of Ireland's chief executive, said that two of the key values at the bank are to be customer focused and to be accountable.

Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh

"These values go to the heart of the culture that we want to develop within our bank," she said.  

"A healthy internal culture in any organisation drives staff engagement and becomes a magnet for talent. But it's the external tangible proof of this culture that gets most attention. A good culture creates great customer outcomes," Ms McDonagh stated. 

"This is particularly relevant in an industry that is highly regulated, with the one of the lowest trust levels of any sector. We have to fix this, and this is why I have placed considerable focus on the transformation of Bank of Ireland including its culture," the CEO added.

AIB to work on action plan to address culture issues

AIB said the Central Bank's Behaviour and Culture Report noted some progress and outlined areas for further development across the banking industry. 

In a statement, the bank said it will review its contents and work towards an action plan to address the issues and recommendations.  

"AIB continues to focus on creating a sustainable bank, one that is socially responsible, trusted and has an unrelenting focus on delivering for customers," the statement added.