A considerable amount of work is needed to build trust in banks amongst farmers, according to a new report.
The Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB) asked 98 farmers across the country about their attitudes to the financial sector as part of their éist Public Trust in Banking survey 2022.
The farmers who took part in the survey were located across the country, with the majority from Munster (45%) and Leinster (30%).
Almost three quarters of the farmers were aged between 35 and 64, while 24% were over the age of 65.
58% of the farmers had a beef enterprise, 28% were engaged in dairy, tillage also accounted for 28% of respondents, with the remainder divided across sheep, poultry, pigs, horticulture and other types of farming.
Using Edelman Trust methodology, the IBCB survey found that the level of trust which farmers have in banks is very low.
It also revealed almost 80% of farmers believing the economic situation will get worse over the next year.
The findings show significantly lower levels of trust in banks among the farming sector, compared to the general population or small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) cohorts.
Farmers stated that the services delivered by banks do not reflect an understanding of their specific financial needs and concerns.
Around half of farmers said that banks do not deliver a quality service and 41% noted that banks are not responsive when dealing with farmers.
The survey shows that the volatility of input costs is the top concern for 84% of farmers, followed by rising energy prices.
The cost of living was listed as a concern for the coming year by two thirds of farmers.
Around half were worried about regulation requirements and 40% were worried about sustainability demands. 29% of respondents noted that they were concerned about farm succession planning.
The survey outlines that there is a lower level of trust in banks amongst those living in rural Ireland
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the closure of a considerable number of bank branches in rural Ireland has had a significant effect on the perception of banks amongst rural communities,” the report noted.
Just 7% of farmers said that they visit their local bank branch once a week, while 31% use digital banking at least once a day.
Farmers who took part in the survey called for stong leadership from banks, tailored financial offerings and a responsive and personalised service.
They remain unconvinced that banks are motivate to support them in meeting financial challenges.
Only 10% of farmers believe that banks perform well on purpose and 4% strongly agreed that banks engage transparently and constructively with the public on issues of importance.
The IBCB was established in 2019 by Allied Irish Banks (AIB), Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank. It is tasked with rebuilding trust in the banking sector.
“The results from the farming sector point to an urgent need for the banking sector to engage with these customers and this will be a priority for the IBCB in the coming months,” Marion Kelly, CEO of IBCB, stated.
Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) described the survey results as “particularly bleak”.
“It’s hardly surprising that sentiment towards the banks is so negative among farmers, when you consider the Ulster Bank exit and the level of branch closures/withdrawal of services throughout rural Ireland,” IFA Farm Business National chair Rose Mary McDonagh said.
“You’d hardly know anyone now in the bank. Bank officials don’t know farmers or understand their business either. It’s a far cry from what it was in the past.
“One of the most glaring statistics that emerged for me was that only 3% of farmers surveyed said the banks adopt a customer-focused approach.
“Banks often talk about being strategic partners and the priority afforded to a customer-centric approach. The key question now is what are the banks going to do to rectify the situation and better meet the needs of farm families,” she said.
“There is huge financial pressure, uncertainty and worry among farmers at the minute.
“Farmers need to know that their financial provider is there for them when needed and that they have a range of low-cost finance options to meet their business and financial needs. Anything less is just not acceptable,” McDonagh concluded.