Monday 26 February 2018

So far so good, now it's time to start making that elusive profit

HE'S not subtle, but the longer he stays in the top job the more clear it becomes how effective Richie Boucher is at running Bank of Ireland.

The abrasive Zambian hasn't made a lot of friends since he took over the top job at the bank four years ago, the most senior banker to hold on to any top job after the bust. He has, however, worked assiduously to reduce the size of the firm, aiming to cut its balance sheet by a third, and has ruthlessly cut costs without ditching the potential for future profits.

Mr Boucher's public persona is of an unsmiling, and unapologetic, banking bruiser. It contrasts with his reputation as entertaining company when he's among those he knows or with small groups, but that refusal, or inability, to play the political game has cost him potential allies in Leinster House in particular.

He was pilloried by the Oireachtas Finance Committee earlier this year after he point-blank refused to put a date on when the bank would be profitable again, even after AIB boss David Duffy had told politicians his firm would be in the black next year.

Mr Boucher won few friends for rightly pointing out at the time, that as the head of a public company, he couldn't legally make such bold predictions about his business.

Nevertheless, few in the financial industry would argue that there is a healthier (or less sick) bank in the country. The State "only" holds 15pc of the lender, while outside investors in the form of Wilbur Ross, have been happy with Boucher.

Tuesday's ruling is the latest victory for him – few analysts were expecting the EU to change its position and so allow the bank to hold on to New Ireland – and it puts him in an even stronger position with his board and shareholders.

So far so good – the challenge for Mr Boucher now is to actually grow the bank, and start making that elusive profit.

Indo Business

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