FOR a man with a full-time staff of two people, John Trethowan must be one of the highest-profile figures in the business community.
As the head of the Credit Review Office for the past three years, he holds a key role as the adjudicator on credit applications from small and medium-sized business that have been turned down by AIB and Bank of Ireland.
His team's work so far has released credit worth millions to SMEs that had been refused access by the banks, preserving 1,100 or so jobs.
It was therefore surprising that he had to wait until yesterday to make his first appearance before the Oireachtas Finance Committee. What he had to say was not too surprising, however.
As Mr Trethowan has made clear in his quarterly reports, the banks are struggling to judge applications accurately because of the lack of experience in frontline lending, while there is now a severe lack of competition in the lending market which is having a detrimental impact on SME credit applications.
Local bank managers no longer make credit decisions, he said. Instead, applications go to a central office where the type of business is not factored in.
The lack of experience can be explained in part by the clearout at both banks. In AIB in particular, where more than 2,500 staff are leaving, anecdotal evidence suggests the vast majority of those exiting are long-time employees aged 40 and over. That loss of experience cannot be replaced overnight and bad credit decisions are being made as a result.
Perhaps more seriously, Mr Trethowan again called for more competition in the financial sector. He has highlighted this before, but the problem is now acute.
No sector can operate correctly with only three players. Banking in Ireland badly needs more firms to join the party.
Quite where they will come from though is an open question.