The chief executive of the organisation set up to drive banking culture reform has said the way in which those institutions support vulnerable customers through the Covid-19 pandemic will be critical to determining how they are perceived in the future.

Marion Kelly said banks must pay particular attention to the needs of vulnerable customers during the period.

She was writing in the Irish Banking Culture Board's (IBCB) first annual report published at the end of the organisation’s first year in existence.

"How we as individuals and companies treat those who rely on us during these difficult times will impact on our reputations and trust levels for many years to come," she said.

"While the crisis will affect every one of us to some extent, we must ensure that we are paying particular attention to the needs of the vulnerable."

Ms Kelly said vulnerable can mean many different things and those who were vulnerable prior to Covid-19 may well face an exacerbation of their circumstances.

Many others will become vulnerable solely because of the impact of the virus on their health and/or their financial circumstances, she added. 

"The manner in which our member banks support their customers, particularly the vulnerable, through the Covid-19 crisis will be critical to determining how they, and indeed the IBCB, are perceived in the future," she claimed.

She said member institutions had over the past year expressed and demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting the IBCB’s objectives in improving customer outcomes and advocating for humanity, decency and respect in the banking sector. 

"The IBCB’s activities and areas of focus for 2020 will remain aimed at delivering on these objectives, with a particular focus on how our member banks are delivering on these in the context of the ramifications of Covid-19," she said.

The culture board was borne out of the poor cultural conduct identified in many banks during and following the financial crash, particularly around the sales and subsequent withdrawal of tracker mortgage products.

Chaired by Mr Justice John Hedigan, it was launched in April of last year and has banking and consumer representatives also on the board.

It has a number of working groups looking at different aspects of banking culture, but has already launched a Common Commitment of Care for
Bereaved Customers and held interactive sessions with a range of bank staff focused on how to improve the 'Speak Up’ process across member banks.

"We recognise that the restoration of trust in an industry which has been the subject of so many challenges and issues will not be easy but, we are confident that, over time, we can contribute to positively changing bank culture to the benefit of the two cohorts most impacted by this culture – bank customers and bank staff," Ms Kelly wrote.