Saturday 15 December 2018

Mallon's exit adds impetus to flux in our banking sector

Gerry Mallon is to quit his job as Ulster Bank chief executive Photo: Leah Farrell /
Gerry Mallon is to quit his job as Ulster Bank chief executive Photo: Leah Farrell /
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

The decision by Ulster Bank chief executive Gerry Mallon to quit after just over a year-and-a-half took many by surprise.

Mr Mallon, who remains in situ at Ulster until later this year, when he will leave to head up Tesco Bank in the UK, leaves at a time of significant moves in the Irish banking sector.

His announcement comes hot on the heels of the decision by Liam McLoughlin, chief executive of Bank of Ireland's Retail Ireland division, to leave the pillar bank to pursue other opportunities.

The exit of Mr McLoughlin, who is understood to have thrown his hat into the ring for the chief executive role - which went to long-serving HSBC executive Francesca McDonagh, is the second high-level departure from BoI in as many months.

Before Christmas, Julie Sharp, the group's head of human resources, also left to pursue other opportunities.

The exits come in the wake of a number of high-profile departures last year including Mark Cunningham, the bank's head of business banking, and Mick Sweeney, who led the wealth-management division.

In her first weeks as Bank of Ireland's new CEO, Ms McDonagh made a decisive break from her predecessor Richie Boucher by conceding the bank had an additional 6,000 customers (including 2,000 of its own staff) affected by the industry-wide tracker mortgage scandal.

Ms McDonagh did so amid increased pressure from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and a tougher stance from the Central Bank led by Governor Philip Lane.

Ulster fared worse, having been taken to task by the Oireachtas Finance Committee over the treatment of its customers.

The €1bn tracker scandal, the largest consumer investigation of its kind, has also been a major test for the leadership of the Central Bank, which was widely criticised for not doing enough to protect consumers.

The regulator is now taking enforcement action against at least four lenders, but it too is facing changes in its leadership ranks. Last July, lawyer Derville Rowland became the public face of the regulator's handling of the tracker controversy when she was appointed director general of financial conduct.

Ms Rowland's team was boosted earlier this month with three new senior appointments.

But we may have a new governor soon if Ireland succeeds in securing its first ever seat on the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB).

On Tuesday, the Government will be updated by Mr Donohoe on whether it should nominate for the role of ECB vice president.

Ireland's lead candidates, Mr Lane and Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery, are both highly regarded in the ECB where they each chair key committees.

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is likely to be a frontrunner to succeed current ECB vice-president Vitor Constancio, who steps down in May.

But there are several ECB vacancies arising over the next two years which could, if Ireland secures a coveted seat, change the face of banking regulation for some time to come

Gender and geo-politics will play a role across the bloc, but it's all to play for in the Irish banking succession stakes.

Irish Independent

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