Eight reasons why the banks hate us

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

ADS FOR BANKS are filled with smiling, happy people brimful of optimism, shaking hands with their can-do bank manager who has clearly just secured their futures by agreeing to lend them money for their new home or business.

The reality is, however, quite different and it is very hard to escape the notion that our banks hate us with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Here are just eight of the reasons they loathe us.

1They have stolen our money (and the money of our children and our children’s children) and either burned it in their cellars or passed it on to shadowy bondholders in central Europe. Whatever they’ve done with it, it’s gone.

All told the reckless lending practices of our banks has cost us €64 billion so far. You will have heard that number before but it is worth repeating it. Our banks have cost us €64 billion over the last four years. That, in case you were wondering, is €16,000 for every man, woman and child living in the Republic today.

2Our banks have screwed hundreds of thousands of mortgage holders who missed the tracker boat.

Anyone who is unfortunate to be on a standard variable rate (SVR) mortgage has been hit with repeated rate increases over the past 18 months despite the fact that ECB rates are going in the opposite direction.

Last month AIB increased its SVR rates by 0.5 per cent. Someone with a €300,000 mortgage now has to find an extra €90 a month or €1,080 a year to cover the rate increase.

The State’s other pillar bank, Bank of Ireland, also increased its rates.

3For many years banks mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) to potentially hundreds of thousands of Irish consumers. About 340,000 such policies were sold here from August 2007 to November 2011.

It is (or was) a hugely profitable business for banks which is why they set the commission rates for their salespeople so high. And that is why those salespeople acted so unscrupulously, with the knowledge of their paymasters.

Policies were sold to self-employed people who could not claim against becoming unemployed. Some customers were denied loans or mortgages unless they took out PPI. Some were not even aware they were paying for it.

Many thousands of people are likely to get their money back in the months ahead. Many thousands more will not.

4Not long ago our banks were falling over themselves to give us free banking. Not any more. Today it is all about the charges.

Bank of Ireland rolled out new charges to current account customers two years ago. Back then it gave its customers wriggle room. Customers who had €3,000 going through their account over a three-month period and made nine online transactions avoided charges.

Then AIB introduced charges which were harder to avoid. Then Bank of Ireland changed its rules and from the middle of November free banking will only be available to customers who leave €3,000 permanently in their current account. This money will not earn any interest.

5The banks have also been cutting services. As of yesterday Bank of Ireland will only process international payments valued at more than €3,000 at the counter. Credit card payments will no longer be accepted at the counter nor will payments into a non-Bank of Ireland account.

Bank of Ireland is also refusing to sell bank drafts at branch counters unless they are worth more than €500. In a piece of Orwellian bumf, Bank of Ireland claimed this reduction of services was actually good news.

“I’ve found ways that give me more time to do what I like to do. That’s the easy banking effect” was how the leaflet outlining the changes was presented.

6Irish banks are also moving people away from its frontline staff in a manner which might be considered unseemly. Stand in the queue for any teller with a cheque you would like cashed and you will be approached by a “customer service representative” who will strongly urge you to use an automated machine to cash your cheque.

7As many as 25 per cent of all bank branches will be shut in the months ahead as AIB, EBS, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB roll out plans to close up to 200 branches between them within two years.

The move will see the services available to many Irish consumers – particularly those in small rural towns – dramatically scaled back.

AIB will shut around 70 branches across its 270-strong network. Around 40 of Ulster Bank’s 146 outlets will go. Permanent TSB will close around 25 branches of its 92 while NIB will close its branch network of 27 banks entirely. In August Bank of Ireland ruled out any bank closures.

8Despite the banks’ PR guff to the contrary, securing a loan of any kind is incredibly difficult these days.

A recent report from the Central Bank found that Irish banks are second only to those in Greece when it comes to refusing loans.

When it comes to personal loans, extracting money from them can be as difficult and they are increasingly using “soft underwriting” tactics to select only the most responsible of borrowers and will pore over your account with forensic zeal looking for reasons to say no.

They have also taken the power to approve loans from local branch managers so commonsense and personal relationships count for nothing. Although given that many of our problems were caused by bankers’ personal relationships with big developers, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

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