Business Irish

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Risk officer was viewed as a steady hand among his peers

Siobhan Creaton

WILLIE McAteer was Anglo's second-in-command and was highly regarded by investors at home and abroad.

For many years, the Donegal-born banker was the man who managed the bank's finances. It was his job to ensure its annual accounts were accurate and to reassure investors that their money was safe.

Now 60, Mr McAteer worked closely with former Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick's since he joined the bank in 1993. He also retained the crucial finance director's role under Mr FitzPatrick's successor, David Drumm.

His cautious and steady demeanour was a good counterbalance to both chief executives' more outgoing style. He was trusted by the financial community and earned millions every year as the bank did well.

He travelled regularly throughout Europe and the US to meet with Anglo's big investors. It was he who painted the financial picture for them, highlighting where it was making money and suggesting the kind of profits it would produce in the months ahead.

He also dealt with any questions about the type of risks the bank was taking in the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.

Mr McAteer will long be remembered for the last accounts Anglo presented before its spectacular collapse.

The bank was putting on a good show to convince investors and the regulators that it could withstand the credit crunch and Mr McAteer assured everyone Anglo was in good shape.

The bank had put aside €500m to allow for bad loans, he said. This was just a "demonstration of prudence", he explained. Bigger losses would only materialise if things reached a "very distressed" situation, he said. And they soon did.

He was also centrally involved in dealing with the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator.

Mr McAteer would have overseen reports the bank was obliged to issue to its supervisors and met with officials to answer specific queries.

Infamously, he has described one meeting with the former regulator Patrick Neary shortly before the bank collapsed.

As Wall Street firms were crumbling, Mr McAteer explained that Anglo was withstanding the credit crunch. In an internal memo of the meeting, he recalled telling the regulator the bank would be able to hold its own.

He said Mr Neary replied: "Fair play to you, Willie."

Irish Independent

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