Customers vent as part of bank's 'humble' drive
ANALYSIS:IL&P’s Alan Cook takes it on the chin as a handful of disgruntled shareholders let fly over interest rates
THERE WERE no eggs or soggy tomatoes thrown but shareholders fired plenty of abuse in the direction of Irish Life Permanent Group Holdings’ top table at its agm in Ballsbridge yesterday. The crowd was smaller than in recent years but the message was familiar: you’ve blown our investments and are gouging us with punitive variable mortgage rates.
A handful of shareholder/customers were given the opportunity by chairman Alan Cook to address the meeting about their personal grievances.
Cook already knew the score having met them a day earlier but granted them a wider platform to vent their spleen.
It’s all part of the group’s drive to become more “humble” and “open and honest” as per a letter sent to investors earlier this month by Jeremy Masding, the recently appointed chief executive of Permanent TSB (PTSB), which will soon be separated from pensions group Irish Life.
Sarah Hogan told of how she and her husband have seen their standard variable mortgage rate rise to 4.69 per cent from 3 per cent in June 2009.
“We’ve been forced to use our savings to meet monthly commitments,” she told the meeting.
She questioned why new mortgage customers with PTSB were being offered variable rates of 3.69 per cent while existing customers were being forced to pay the higher rate.
“When will you refund to us money taken from us and when will we get that rate,” she added.
Ms Hogan described the bank as “morally bankrupt” and urged customers to pull their accounts.
Conor McNally described the variable interest rate as “extortionate” and said his savings had been “wiped out” to “keep level” with mortgage payments.
Karen Donohue accused PTSB of “exploiting and preying on existing customers” and added her voice to calls urging customers to close their accounts.
“No one should support this bank,” she added.
Others spoke of how they believed Irish Life had destroyed both Irish Permanent and TSB after taking them over during the past decade or so, and slated previous board members for their stewardship of the group, with former chairman Gillian Bowler coming in for some stick. Chairman Cook, as one disgruntled shareholder kept calling him, took it all on the chin while trying trying to retain a sense of humour.
He described the recent 0.5 per cent reduction in mortgage interest rates as a “gesture”.
There was more grumbling before 11 resolutions were put to a vote. The poll was rendered meaningless by virtue of the Government, which owns 99.2 per cent IL&P, having already voted in favour of them.
A large number of the shareholders had left the room by this stage to scoff the sandwiches outside, no doubt in a bid to get something back for their lost millions.