Thursday 23 November 2017

The public versus the private – the many different faces of David Drumm

Tom Lyons

The voices down the phone line were level, their language refined. It was December 3, 2008, and David Drumm, the confident young chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, was on the phone to banking analysts around the world.

It was a different Drumm to the swash-buckling banker who had doubled the size of the bank since taking its top job in 2005.

Only the previous May, on a similar call, he'd praised the bank for its "sheer profitability" and "very, very strong balance sheet". His executive team had rolled in behind him.

The message then was things were harder, but Anglo was riding the storm and on course to report record profits.

Only seven months later, Drumm was more downbeat, but still fighting. "To say the least, it was a challenging year for all of us," he admitted.

Anglo had made a profit of "just" €800m, he said, but not to worry, with the "benefit of the Irish government guarantee," the bank would be able to raise fresh funds in the markets.

Each of Anglo's executive directors spoke. Each stressed things were bad, but there was no sense of any looming catastrophe, or that the bank was only one month away from being nationalised at a cost to the State of up to €30bn. Eventually, it was the turn of John Bowe, Anglo's director of group treasury, to come on the line. Other banks, Bowe admitted, were "falling like skittles", but not Anglo.

"From an Anglo perspective, I think we're very pleased to say that the deposit books and the customer franchises have proved to be very, very resilient right throughout the year. And certainly behaviour has been very, very solid . . ." he said, reassuringly.

The reality as we know from the Anglo Tapes was anything but such gentility.

Irish Independent

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