Half of Bank of Ireland staff fear speaking up, survey shows

CEO sets out to change culture as nearly 50% of staff say they are not proud of bank

Bank of Ireland chief executive Francesca McDonagh has set the establishment of a “customer-centric culture” as a top priority since taking charge in October

Bank of Ireland chief executive Francesca McDonagh's task in overhauling the lender's culture has been laid bare by staff survey, which found that half its workers are afraid of speaking up without fear of negative consequences.

The first such survey undertaken by the bank in about eight years revealed that 48 per cent of employees feel a sense of pride in the country’s largest bank by assets. The outcome of the exercise was circulated internally on Friday and seen by The Irish Times.

While 80 per cent of respondents said their managers encouraged them to do the right thing for customers, only 23 per cent identified customers when asked to choose words to describe the bank’s culture.

“We have good relationships with our managers, and 79 per cent of us feel respected and recognised for great work, and 69 per cent feel we are encouraged to share feedback and opinions,” Ms McDonagh said. “But there is room for improvement – 60 per cent of us perceive that our managers are comfortable with challenge and 49 per cent of us feel we can share opinions in a safe environment.”



Ms McDonagh, a former senior executive with HSBC in the UK who succeeded Richie Boucher as chief executive of Bank of Ireland in early October, has set the establishment of a "customer-centric culture" as a top priority since taking charge. In the past two months, regulators and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe have criticised how lenders operate in the face of an escalating industry-wide tracker-mortgage scandal.

Bank of Ireland said last month that it will set aside a further €150 million to €175 million of provisions to cover refunds, compensation and other costs relating to the overcharging of mortgage customers. That is on top of €25 million set aside last year. The increase came as the bank conceded that an additional 6,000 customers had either been wrongly denied a low-cost mortgage linked to the European Central Bank benchmark rate, or put on the wrong rate.

Mr Donohoe ordered the Central Bank in October to start a report for him on the “current cultures and behaviours and the associated risks in the retail banks today and the actions that may be taken to ensure that banks prioritise customer interests in the future”.

The Bank of Ireland survey, responded to by 72 per cent of staff, found that while two-thirds enjoy working at the group, only half of them feel engaged and 39 per cent would recommend it as a place to work.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times