Ireland, Central Banking, Banks, Economy, Markets, Bankia Sa, Caixabank Sa, Bank Of Ireland Group Plc

Ireland, Central Banking

Bank of Ireland chief says the economy is showing positive signs, but banks will feel the brunt

Bank of Ireland chief says the economy is showing positive signs, but banks will feel the brunt

9/18/2020 2:12:00 PM

Bank of Ireland chief says the economy is showing positive signs, but banks will feel the brunt

The chief executive of Bank of Ireland said she is 'cautiously optimistic' about the economic recovery in Ireland , but that banks are still facing a severe hit.

In its half-year report, Bank of Ireland announced a 669 million euro ($790 million) loss before tax, after it took an impairment charge of 937 million euros ($1.1 billion) to cover loan losses during the pandemic.At the start of lockdown, Bank of Ireland and other major banks agreed to payment breaks for some customers. McDonagh said around 10% of Bank of Ireland's customers had taken a payment break since lockdown in March.

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"Many of those customers have come off and resumed normal credit and interest repayment, but our focus in the latter part of this year as people come off their final payment break is to work with our customers," she said."We had the lowest non-performing exposure ratio of any Irish bank before Covid, of working with customers to find sustainable solutions, and that's where our focus will be."

There is still uncertainty on any future outlook, she added, with Brexit presenting "additional uncertainty" that may create further challenges ahead.Cost cuttingBank of Ireland recently revamped its charges and now charges a flat fee of six euros per month for current account customers, regardless of how much they have with the bank.

At the same time, it is doing away with a bunch of other charges like contactless fees and ATM fees. It also remains in the midst of an investment strategy in technology to improve its digital services."The focus on technology was already there before Covid, but the trends and changes amongst our customers are only going to accelerate that," McDonagh said.

This investment aside, Bank of Ireland is continuing to look at cutting costs elsewhere. When announcing its half-year results, the bank said it plans to cut 1,400 jobs from its workforce.It is the latest in a line of Irish banks to embark on cost cutting measures. On Thursday, The Irish Times reported that NatWest was considering closing down Ulster Bank's operations in Ireland, just a week after the bank said it intended to let 266 workers go. Natwest declined to comment when contact by CNBC Friday.

KBC, meanwhile, said that it was shutting four of its 16 branches around the country.Consolidation in the sectorShould Ulster Bank exit the Irish market, it would narrow the field in Ireland's banking sector to just a few players. Read more: CNBC »

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