There is an "absence of trust" amongst farmers in banks, according to the latest report from the Irish Banking Culture Board.

The farming community was surveyed as a specific cohort for the first time and registered a -77 trust score, ranking significantly lower than both the general population and SMEs.

The report reveals that the farming sector requires an urgent focus by banks to address very low levels of trust. It says knowing the scale of the challenge being faced is the first step in addressing it.

"There is a sense that customer needs are not adequately understood," said Marion Kelly, CEO of the Irish Banking Culture Board. "There are concerns around accessibility which I think is probably understandable given the changes in banking models and the reduction in branches.

"And what we need to see is how those common concerns can be addressed because interestingly, what we found in the SME sector trust levels did increase, and we think that that's partly due to the support that SMEs got during Covid with payment breaks and so on," she said.

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The IBCB plans to run information sessions at the Ploughing Championship with member banks to see what actions need to be taken to address these concerns.

IBCB Board Member and Treasurer of the Irish Farmers Association, Martin Stapleton, said: "The absence of trust amongst the farming community is an issue that needs to be addressed without delay. Farmers are integral to Ireland's heritage and economy and their perspective needs to be understood, esteemed, and supported and their needs met by banks."

The Irish Banking Culture Board was established to facilitate cultural change in banking in Ireland. Its 2022 éist report is based on the second survey of public trust in banking following the publication of the first report in 2021. The éist survey, based on the Edelman Trust research model, shows that trust amongst the Irish public in banks remains low but stable improving slightly in comparison to last year, which is significant given the backdrop of societal volatility against which the survey fieldwork was conducted.

While the overall trust score for the general population has increased by three points, compared to last year, it remains low at -25.

Encouragingly, the trust score for the SME sector continues to trend in a positive direction standing at -7, an improvement of six points on last year.

Marion Kelly, CEO of the Irish Banking Culture Board

Ms Kelly said this year's éist findings "are a clear illustration of the extent of the challenge in changing banking culture in Ireland.

"Progress is being made but the process of cultural improvement will take time," she said. "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. It is important that banks support their customers during the difficulties ahead, particularly in relation to those impacted by the need to change their banking relationships."

Speaking about the publication of éist 2022, Chairman Mr Justice John Hedigan said ''It is clear from this year’s findings that, while there is some evidence of improvement, more work remains to be done to address deeply ingrained feelings of distrust towards the banking sector amongst the Irish public.

"It is also clear that continued positive behaviour on behalf of retail banks, the evidence of which needs to be both visible to and felt by bank customers, is necessary to further restore public trust in the sector.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the IBCB knows that its member banks are working hard to address the trust deficit and have undertaken several positive initiatives that show a commitment to improving the culture of the sector.

"A focus on customer outcomes will need to be sustained for an extended period before there is significant tangible evidence of improvement in the public’s trust in banking."