Business Irish

Sunday 19 November 2017

Bank boss gives food for thought

Sam Smyth

John A Moran is the "chosen one", the new head of the Banking Policy Division headhunted by Finance Minister Michael Noonan to energise and bring radical change to the Department of Finance.

As a former CEO at Zurich Bank, his arrival in the department last month prompted deep resentment in the hierarchy of the civil service and sparked a question about his position in the Dail.

No designated rank has been assigned to Mr Moran, although he will lead his own team and report to the secretary general.

"If this makes the minister happy, then give it to him," is how one source close to the department explained how they made way for Mr Moran.

Mr Moran is on secondment from the Central Bank, which could lead a casual observer to think that he was a civil service "lifer" shifting jobs.

But he went to the Central Bank after being invited to come aboard by governor Patrick Honohan last July.

Prof Honohan was impressed by Mr Moran's work with Zurich and persuaded him to head up the supervision of the wholesale baking division.

"John didn't need the money but Patrick appealed to his sense of public service and persuaded him to join," said one source. Mr Moran made his public debut alongside Mr Noonan at a press conference for the Nyberg report on Tuesday. Before that, he briefed the media on the bank stress tests.

Although he and Mr Noonan both come from Limerick, and Mr Noonan's wife Florence taught at the same national school that he attended, the minister did not know him.

His parents still live in Patrick's Well near Limerick city where his father drove a pick-up truck as a partner in a small construction company. Neighbours describe them as a hard-working family with a 30-acre farm and high-achieving children, three sons and a daughter.

After national school and the CBS in Limerick, he graduated with an honours law degree from UCD in 1987, did his New York bar exam in 1987, followed by an honours degree in law and taxation from the University of Pennsylvania. After qualifying as a solicitor from the Incorporated Law Society in 1994, he became an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell tax group and went on to be vice-president legal at aircraft leaser GPA for three years.

Mr Moran headed up top Dublin solicitors McCann FitzGerald's office in New York for nearly three years and switched careers to join Zurich Capital Markets as CEO.

As head of business development for Zurich, he took charge of the banks largest-ever deal, the $60m (€41m) refinancing of an Italian hotel group before leaving in 2005.

Mr Moran took time off after he left Zurich to move around Europe and his long-held affection for France deepened.

It is widely believed by old colleagues that Mr Moran answered Mr Noonan's call from a sense of patriotism, but now finds himself a step away from the top job in the department -- even though he never passed the civil service exam.

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