Friday 15 December 2017

Newsmaker: Richie Boucher

Richie Boucher, chief executive of the Bank of Ireland
Richie Boucher, chief executive of the Bank of Ireland Newsdesk Newsdesk

For a man who has taken the stick Richie Boucher has over the last six years, he really must have the hide of a Rhinoceros.

The Bank of Ireland chief executive is the one man still associated with a major bank at a senior level since before the crash, and despite all the kicking he has taken about not reducing mortgage interest rates, among many other things, he carries on.

On Friday he will present the bank's half-year results to the market, and as always, they will be closely watched.

For the man on the street, the big question will be what, if anything, will Mr Boucher do about his bank's standard variable interest rates, which remain among the highest on the market? After all, Bank of Ireland reduced its fixed rates back in May.

The short answer is: not much. Mr Boucher has steadfastly refused to cut SVRs, and that is not likely to change now. Galling as it is, it would seem that he will stick to what he believes is required for the bank. For investors, the focus is likely to be on the bank's capital ratios, and possibly succession planning at the top.

The lender surprised the market back in April when it revealed it's Tier 1 capital ratio - a key measure of the bank's strength - declined 20 basis points to 9.1pc during Q1.

It is likely to head back towards 10pc this time.

As for succession planning, it's no secret that Mr Boucher has had a recent health scare, and even if he had not been ill, he has now been in the chief executive role for more than six years.

That is a long time by any standard - never mind when his reign has been a time of such upheaval, the likes of which we may never see again.

One thing that we probably won't get any update on is the fate of the Government's 14pc stake in Bank of Ireland. Finance Minister Michael Noonan made clear last week the State has no intention of selling it at this stage, but with the stock having risen nearly 60pc in the last 12 months, that sell-off must be getting closer.

No doubt Mr Boucher would wish it would happen sooner rather than later too. The political pressure he has faced over interest rates exists because the Government still retains a stake in the lender.

Mr Boucher is known for his dour persona, and gave a typically rugged performance at the Banking Inquiry this year.

He is not the most charismatic of individuals, but then again he isn't paid to be charismatic.

Frankly, it must be pretty hard to smile if you are running an Irish bank, even now.

Irish Independent

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