Business Irish

Monday 18 December 2017

Nama boosts its ranks with graduates after staff exodus

Ronan Quinlan

NAMA is hiring fresh-faced college graduates to manage the affairs of the developers on its books, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

In recent weeks the State's 'bad bank' has moved to shore up its ranks with a drive to recruit university and college graduates to work as 'graduate portfolio managers' at its Grand Canal Street headquarters in Dublin.

While the new recruits will not be left to work independently on the affairs of Nama's clients, the decision to hire them fresh from college is already raising eyebrows among a number of the country's developers.

However, a spokesman for Nama defended the agency's move. "These are entry-grade positions where the work will focus largely on administrative functions and will suit recent graduates," the spokesman told the Sunday Independent.

Nama's recruitment of individuals with little or no practical experience of the property industry, however, is being seen by those involved in the sector as symptomatic of the difficulties the agency has had in holding on to its employees since the Government demanded it cut pay costs in line with the rest of the public sector.

Nama CEO Brendan McDonagh has made no secret of the fact that the agency has been haemorrhaging staff ever since.

Indeed, at the announcement of Nama's latest quarterly results last May, Mr McDonagh revealed that 10 per cent of the agency's 200-plus staff had left in 2012 alone.

Remarking on this, he said that Nama's inclusion in the "public sector [pay] adjustments is certainly a concern in terms of our ability to retain and allocate the correct skill sets to manage the portfolio".

Commenting on Nama's drive to recruit graduate portfolio managers, one property developer whose loans are with the agency said: "It's no secret that they are having trouble holding on to experienced people, so I'm not surprised. Anyone who has had to deal with their bank will be familiar with finding a fresh-faced youngster sitting across the desk from them asking the questions. They get them in, give them an important-sounding title and pay them buttons."

Only two weeks ago, the Sunday Independent identified a dozen key officials who had left Nama to take up more lucrative positions in the private commercial property sector, both here and abroad.

The exodus began in January 2012 with the high-profile resignation of the agency's head of lending and corporate finance Graham Emmett.

In leaving the role, Mr Emmett made it clear to the Sunday Independent that the Government's "interference" with his pay and conditions had informed his decision.

More recently, it emerged that yet another of Nama's most senior asset managers, Ali Rohan, was leaving to take up a new role with the US property investment giant Kennedy Wilson.

In joining the ranks of Kennedy Wilson, she will be tasked with assisting the Beverly Hills company with the management of its newly acquired Irish commercial property portfolio, which includes, among other assets, the Stillorgan shopping centre formerly owned by Treasury Holdings, and the Clancy Quay apartment complex near Dublin's Phoenix Park. The company recently invested €306m in Irish property.

Sunday Independent

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