Wednesday 17 January 2018

Future is fraught for IL&P, but Murphy's stint there will be calmer than Bowler's

Laura Noonan

WHEN Gillian Bowler took the IL&P chair in 2004, she had already built Budget Travel into one of the country's biggest travel brands and was a firm fixture on the directors' circuit with gigs at Grafton and Failte Ireland.

None of that experience could have prepared her for the tsunami that would engulf IL&P in early 2009 when it emerged that the bancassurer had given Anglo a digout of almost €8bn at the peak of the crisis.

As public and Government indignation mounted, a hastily convened late-night meeting of IL&P's board saw two of the plc's top executives resigned in the aftermath of the scandal.

IL&P chief executive Denis Casey's resignation was tendered on that same night and declined by Ms Bowler's board, triggering outrage from Finance Minister Brian Lenihan who summoned Bowler for a 'chat.'

Hours later the job was accomplished and the board agreed to accept Casey's resignation, leaving the public in little doubt about who really called the shots at IL&P.

The battle was just beginning for Ms Bowler though. Over the coming weeks she was accosted on the streets of Dublin as shareholders vented their fury at her fall from grace.

The AGM in May was a heated affair, as Bowler faced down shareholder fury and devastation, and calls for her to resign and hand back her salary.

Against the onslaught, she held tough. The IL&P job was not done, she said. She felt an "obligation" not to abandon the institution at such a troubled time without a steward.

Since then, much has changed. Former Life boss Kevin Murphy has taken over the chief executive's chair on a permanent basis and his actuary's head is steadying the institution.

The numbers are beginning to look better -- IL&P expects group profits to increase by about 70pc this year -- and a plan with Permanent TSB has been drawn up.

The future remains fraught with uncertainty -- will even higher capital demands emerge from the regulator next year?

What will IL&P do if it doesn't get EBS? But the worst of the storm appears to have passed and Bowler's successor is likely to live in less interesting times.

Irish Independent

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