Business Irish

Sunday 8 December 2019

Government pushed O'Connor for leading role

AIB executive chairman Dan O'Connor at the bank's EGM in Bankcentre, Ballsbridge Dublin, last
AIB executive chairman Dan O'Connor at the bank's EGM in Bankcentre, Ballsbridge Dublin, last December

Emmet Oliver Deputy Business Editor

The Government insisted on amending an AIB press release to make it clear that chairman Dan O'Connor would be in charge of "driving cultural and staffing changes in the bank'', rather than managing director Colm Doherty.

Kevin Cardiff, the most senior civil servant dealing with banking issues, advised Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in November to make it clear that Mr O'Connor would also head up plans for NAMA and the recapitalisation of the bank.

A memo from Mr Cardiff, now the secretary-general of the department, to Mr Lenihan said: "We suggest that the AIB press release be amended to make clear that the chairman is responsible for driving cultural and staffing changes in the bank."

External bias

"You might like to consider suggesting that Mr O'Connor would personally oversee the process of restructuring the management team, and ensuring that the external bias will be delivered upon,'' said the memo from Mr Cardiff.

AIB is chaired by Mr O'Connor, a former-GE executive, but day-to-day management of the company is the responsibility of Mr Doherty, the former head of capital markets.

However, memos about the issue of AIB's top leadership make it clear that the Government still wants to review the entire structure shortly.

The memos talk about the need to have an "external bias'' in management appointments, although the bank has gone some way towards this by bringing in a chief financial officer, Bernard Byrne of ESB, from outside the company.

Sources were surprised the bank selected somebody not only from outside the bank, but from outside banking itself.

The memo makes it clear that the changes at the top of AIB were also partly influenced by the Financial Regulator who sent several questions to former CEO Eugene Sheehy asking him about the "governance structure'' at the bank.

The memos make it clear that the Government envisaged Mr O'Connor also having "responsibility'' for key strategic issues, such as EU approval of the bank's restructuring plan.

The Government also come under attack from corporate governance experts who have questioned the use of an executive chairman, the role filled by Mr O'Connor.

Corporate governance codes tend to favour a structure where there is a clear separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

The Department of Finance has answered this by saying it will review the whole structure at a later date.

Mr Doherty today unveils, for the first time, the annual results of the bank for 2009.

Irish Independent

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