Friday 19 January 2018

PUNT: Woman shakes up the 'court'

BANK of Ireland is not, despite what its name or the grand offices in the old parliament on College Green suggests, a central bank.

Nevertheless, the bank still operates what it calls a 'court' of directors, just like the UK's central bank does.

This 'court' is led by a governor, the same title given to the head of the actual Central Bank of Ireland. Other, more plebian, banks must make do with boards and chairmen.

The court is not immune to the passage of time though; a woman has just been appointed to its ranks as a non-executive director. She joins a court that until now was exclusively male. This newest recruit is Davida Marston.

Ms Marston's banking career (or so her numerous online bios tell us) spans 30 years and three continents. Her final role was as regional head for UK and Irish banking at Citigroup, which she left in 2003.

Ms Marston serves on the boards of several large operations, including UK social housing repairs company Mears Group.

She also sits on the board of US lender CIT Bank and Spanish bank Liberbank, which is reportedly planning to float on the stock market at the end of April.

The court is obviously not superstitious; until now it had 13 members. It remains to be seen whether Ms Marston's addition as the 14th member, still to be approved at the bank's AGM in April, will bring luck.

O'Leary in for the long haul

Michael O'Leary turns 52 today, but the Punt reckons he probably doesn't really do birthdays.

Still, it must be cause enough for celebration to have secured another big order with Boeing at a bargain-basement price.

The latest order confirms the airline's position as one of the world's biggest. Another huge order could follow relatively soon.

One suspects that none of this is bringing O'Leary anywhere closer to contemplating retirement. Next year, he'll mark 20 years as chief executive of what is one of Ireland's most successful companies ever. And in those past two decades, he has utterly transformed Ryanair.

He's often insisted that he'll be gone from the airline "within a few years" but it's looking increasingly likely that he'll have to be pushed out of a plane by anyone who's eager enough to take over.

There's plenty to keep O'Leary interested enough and busy enough for at least another six years. Another aircraft order could ensure he'll be still at it well past 60.

In a 2010 interview with the Irish Independent, he said he'd be gone in two or three years. "I would like them to see that their old man is working at something," he said, concerned about what his kids would think if he wasn't working at Ryanair anymore.

"If you were some kind of rich waster playing golf and going to race meetings in the middle of the week, it sends out the wrong impression to the kids that they don't need to work for a living." The Punt thinks the kids will be seeing him at Ryanair for a long time to come.

Irish duo can make Great impact

THE Punt was delighted to see that former president Mary Robinson has been appointed to a special role within the United Nations to oversee the troubled Great Lakes region of Africa.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has given Ms Robinson a big job that includes the admirable task of promoting peace in the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo.

While the Congo will undoubtedly be the focus of her attention, The Punt wonders whether Mrs Robinson may also one day cross swords with Aidan Heavey's Tullow Oil, which had been prospecting for oil and gas in many parts of the Great Lakes region that stretches across East Africa and includes the cradle of mankind.

While African governments will give the 68-year-old former president a warm welcome, they are also in thrall to Mr Heavey and the potential growth that could come from the sort of discoveries that Tullow manages to make with astounding regularity.

Both Mrs Robinson and Mr Heavey now have the potential to make an enormous difference to a region that could slide easily into anarchy or become an important and relatively wealthy part of the world. Let's hope they both succeed.

Irish Independent

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