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Deceased bank customers – Irish banks to be more caring to next-of-kin

18th November, 2019

The five main retail banks in Ireland have agreed to a ‘common commitment of care’ for bereaved customers.

The announcement was made by the Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB), which was established in April 2019, write Philip O’Leary (board member, IBCB) and Jade McDonagh (senior manager, IBCB).

This is the first collaborative announcement by the IBCB on behalf of the five retail banks in Ireland, which include: Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB, and Ulster Bank.

‘Commitment of care’

The board brought the banks together to establish a ‘common commitment of care’ for bereaved customers. Collectively, these five banks assist approximately 50,000 bereaved customers each year, making this an issue that affects thousands of spouses, partners and their families.

The commitment of care includes a dedicated phone line in each bank for bereaved customers. Most importantly, the banks will help bereaved customers access any available funds of the deceased to cover the funeral costs.

Independent role

Established just seven months ago, the IBCB is a banking industry initiative – but one with an independent remit. Its chair is the Court of Appeal judge (retired), Mr Justice John Hedigan. Its acting CEO is Marion Kelly.

The board’s goal is to drive cultural change in the sector. Its aim is to rebuild trust in the country’s pillar banks by transforming their behaviour and culture. The IBCB is funded by the five banks.

The board can insist that the participating banks improve their culture, customer care and business competence. It acts to promote ethical behaviour in the banking sector, and advocates for humility, decency, and respect.

Bereaved customers

Through an extensive consultation process by the IBCB with both the public and bank stakeholders, the board found that dealing with banks after the loss of a loved one was a major source of stress and anxiety for many.

This message was reinforced through additional consultation sessions with third parties, such as MABS and the Citizens Information Service.

Despite the focus by each of the five banks to address these concerns in recent years, the IBCB discovered a low level of awareness about the existing support services available from the banks.

Plain English

The banks are also committed to using plain English, making information on the available services easily accessible. They have also guaranteed to suppress marketing materials addressed to the deceased as quickly as possible.

The banks will review their processes for dealing with bereaved customers on an ongoing basis to ensure they are offering the best service to customers.

Commitment of care

The Common Commitment of Care for Bereaved Customers by IBCB member banks promise to:

1)  Have dedicated bereavement phone lines,

2)  Support customers throughout the process, treating them with empathy at all times,

3)  Make information available through the banks’ websites and the IBCB website,

4)  Assist customers in accessing available funds in accounts to cover funeral costs,

5)  Use plain English and explain any necessary technical terms,

6)  Make every effort to suppress marketing materials addressed to the deceased, and

7)  Make the process as efficient as possible, and continually review and improve the process.