Banks failing to support staff on customer abuse


BANK STAFF need urgent training to deal with growing incidents of verbal and sometimes physical abuse from customers, the Irish Bank Officials Association has said.

Banking institutions are failing to support staff in dealing with distressed customers whose financial circumstances have put them into states ranging from “despair to anger”, association general secretary Larry Broderick said.

“Staff have been largely left to their own devices in dealing with these extremely difficult situations with little, if any, formal support from the institutions.”

Individual branch managers in some banks have attempted to provide a degree of mentoring for staff, but this has been very much a local initiative rather than standard practice throughout the bank, Mr Broderick said.

“It is clear to us from a recent survey of our members that staff would appreciate more support – including some training – to enable them to deal with situations like these. We have sought such support from senior management but to no avail.”

The association was not seeking to train staff to become counsellors, Mr Broderick said, but wanted some practical guidelines on how to deal with distressed and sometimes difficult customers whose numbers have been growing since the onset of the banking crisis in 2008.

“We suspect the reluctance of some banks to facilitate staff taking on this role could be a fear staff might spend more time with individual customers when staff are already under pressure to ‘process’ customers faster as a result of cuts in employees.”

Mr Broderick’s calls have been supported by mental health support groups Aware and the Samaritans. The groups said training would not only ease the burden for those financially strapped but also help bank employees under stress from dealing with such difficult situations.

“It is easier for people to put their hands up to say they are under financial pressure if the Government, financial institutions, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and agencies like ourselves work together,” Aware spokesperson Sandra Hogan said.