Business Irish

Sunday 24 September 2017

Taking stock of the man who put Ireland's exchange on global map

Tom Healy spotted the opportunities created by the IFSC
Tom Healy spotted the opportunities created by the IFSC
Dan White

Dan White

Tom Healy rescued the Irish Stock Exchange from the threat of extinction, transforming the Dublin market from a sleepy backwater into one of the one of the leading destinations for international listed funds and debt securities.

When he was appointed chief executive of the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) in 1987, Dublin was struggling and looked set to follow the UK regional securities markets into the maw of London. In his two decades in charge Tom turned the situation around. He quickly spotted the opportunities the nascent IFSC created for the ISE.

From being a market exclusively focused on domestic shares and government bonds, Dublin under Tom's leadership looked outward to the wider world.

In 1990 the first listed fund made its debut on the Irish Stock Exchange while the first debt fund listed in 2000. The exchange is now number one in the world for listed funds and number two for debt funds. Then in 1995 the Irish Stock Exchange became an independent market once again after more than two decades as part of the London Stock Exchange.

A native of Co Westmeath, Tom graduated from Trinity and spent five years in various roles with the IDA. However, it was during his seven years as communications manager with the Irish Trade Board that he first became widely known. Even so, without a financial background, his appointment as ISE chief executive in 1987, came as something of a surprise.

In the mid-1980s the Irish Stock Exchange was an extremely traditional, not to say stuffy, institution. Trading was dominated by a handful of brokers and all deals took place on the floor of the Exchange's Anglesea Street headquarters. Just to make matters worse, the imposition of exchange controls following the break with sterling in 1979 meant that Irish investors couldn't own shares in overseas companies, even those of companies that used their shares to buy Irish listed companies.

The Irish Stock Exchange went over a decade, from 1973 to 1986, with no new companies joining its main market.

Into all of this Tom came as a breath, more a gale actually, of fresh air. A market that seemed to have no future was revived. And it wasn't just overseas business. Under Tom's leadership a host of Irish companies including Glanbia, Aryzta, Kingspan, Ryanair and Paddy Power Betfair joined the Irish Stock Exchange and became world beaters.

By the time Tom stepped down in 2007, the ISE was recording annual operating profits of over €10m.

Tom then became head of the new Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange before retiring in 2010.

A warm host and a good friend, Tom will be deeply missed by all of those of us who were privileged to have known him.

Irish Independent

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