The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) has said he would like to see his decisions in individual cases applied by banks and insurance companies to groups of customers with similar complaints.

Ger Deering also said that when he first started looking at complaints made to him regarding the tracker mortgage controversy, he was surprised at some of the conduct of those working in the banks.

Addressing the Regulating Banking Culture Conference organised by UCD Sutherland Law School, Minnesota Law and Eversheds Sutherland, Mr Deering said his office can only probe individual cases, where as the Central Bank can look at groups of similar cases or cohorts.

"As Ombudsman, the decisions that I make, I would like to see the banks and the insurance companies look at those and then as some of them are doing now just in the tracker area…and then are applying that to a cohort of people rather than just saying we will take the hit on this and we won't apply it to other people," he said.

His comments came just days after AIB revealed it had made a €300m provision in its 2019 accounts to deal with expected further redress payments to 5,900 customers, following a preliminary ruling by the FSPO in a tracker mortgage complaint case.

The FSPO is currently dealing with over 1,100 tracker mortgage related complaints, from people who feel they were wrongly denied a tracker mortgage, had one taken away or were put on the incorrect rate.

Mr Deering said the tracker mortgage issue has dominated his term of office so far. He said he doesn't just look at terms and conditions, but also whether the conduct of the institution was reasonable and fair.

The ombudsman revealed that when he first read some of the tracker case files, he was surprised with some of the conduct of those working in the banks.

He recalled how in one case, the emails between bank officials revealed how they decided to take the chance of letting the case go to his office, based on previous decisions.

"What struck me…was that nobody said hold on, these people are entitled to a tracker mortgage," he said.

He added that how individual bank officials operate is a product of the organisation itself. 

"I think the work that we do is playing an important part in terms of informing and I hope changing and improving culture," Mr Deering said.

Also speaking at the same conference, Seana Cunningham, Director of Enforcement at the Central Bank, said the biggest challenge with culture is that a firm sets its own, and it is therefore up to a regulator to see what they can do to influence it.

She said there must be an understanding that there are sanctions, that they would be public and that there is also the possibility of individual accountability. 

She added that the right balance also needs to be struck and for measures to be proportionate.

"For me the biggest challenge is the hearts and minds discussion because this will be about the hearts and minds of people working in institutions," she said.

"And this just doesn't relate to financial services, you can see it in other industries as well." 

Jeremy Masding, the CEO of Permanent TSB, outlined to the conference the changes that the bank has made to its culture since the financial crisis.

He said this has included an improved focus on complaints management and the introduction of a product assurance function to ensure the staff delivers on what is promised.

The aim has been to get the right "customer value equation" that balances fair customer outcomes with an economic return, he claimed.

He said new proposals are put through a series of tests to prove the idea is fair as well as morally and ethically correct , and not designed to make a short-term gain.

Peter Roebben, CEO of KBC Ireland said the bank has been working on improving the language it uses to make it clear and simple, as well as developing a list of questions that staff must ask themselves when making decisions.

Mr Justice John Hedigan, the Chairman of the Irish Banking Culture Board, said regaining public trust is a difficult and long term project and warned the board is not a body that is going to produce results immediately.

He said the challenge is a significant one and there is a lot of skepticism around the banks.

He added that the search for ethical culture is a global phenomenon and he firmly believes we are on a path to something better.