Banks 'fail' to identify risk of awarding bonuses for higher sales

The Central Bank has asked all firms to review their guidelines by the start of next year.

IRISH BANKS HAVE been criticised for a ‘failure’ to recognise that awarding sales-related bonuses could led to customers being sold inappropriate products.

Following a review of practices in a number of organisations, the Central Bank is warning against placing an emphasis on awarding higher amounts of sales rather than ‘achieving suitable consumer outcomes’.

This invovled around a focus on quantity rather than quality, and a conflict of interest between sale managers and their staff.

In this situation, the staff who were setting the guidelines for bonuses were also in receipt of the bonuses themselves.

It has now asked that all banking, insurance, and investment firms review remuneration arrangements before the start of next year.

“The Central Bank is following up on all specific issues identified directly with investment firms and banks inspected, having already done so with insurance firms,” the report said.

It notes that all organisations only implemented approved incentive schemes, but there was a “failure to recognise the inherent risks in remuneration arrangements and to mitigate those risks accordingly”.

It warns that this could result in customers being sold packages that would negatively affect their financial situation but would result in high commission for the seller.

There was also little to deter staff from following poor sales practices.

Other findings included:

  • Widespread use of branch targets in the banking sector as a means of focusing on the bank’s goals
  • Incentives earned on an ‘all or nothing’ basis
  • Regular and robust sales quality monitoring not performed consistently.

The Central Bank’s director of consumer protection Bernard Sheridan said that monitoring these arrangements will remain a priority.

“The Central Bank expects that, when firms remunerate sales staff on a variable basis, these arrangements focus on encouraging the right culture and behaviour in sales staff, while actively discouraging poor practices,” he said.

It is important that remuneration arrangements are structured in such a way as to ensure that employees, individually and collectively, are acting in the best interests of their customers and providing suitable products which meet their needs.

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