Sunday 26 January 2020

State's pay cap will narrow field to replace Bank of Ireland 'rhino' Boucher

Richie Boucher to leave just ahead of his 60th birthday, in line with the bank’s mandatory retirement age
Richie Boucher to leave just ahead of his 60th birthday, in line with the bank’s mandatory retirement age
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Bank of Ireland's long serving chief executive Richie Boucher will retire before the end of the year, the bank said yesterday, staying on while the lender looks to find a replacement.

He'll leave ahead of his 60th birthday, in line with the bank's mandatory retirement age.

A recruitment process is under way, but analysts said a pay cap which has been in place since the bank bailouts may limit the potential candidates.

Bank of Ireland's new CEO will earn a maximum of €500,000 a year, less than Richie Boucher's €843,000 pay package.

He was exempt from the salary restriction because his pay was agreed before it was introduced.

"It (the pay cap) will narrow the field especially if you are looking at someone in the big UK banks. Internally it is not going to be an issue and it might not matter for someone prepared to take a longer term view," Investec analyst Owen Callan said yesterday.

Bank of Ireland shares dipped yesterday, an ironic tribute to the most senior Irish banker to have come through the crash without losing his job.

His appointment in 2009 was highly controversial. Before the crash Richie Boucher had led the bank's retail arm - including mortgage lending. He was close to property developer Sean Dunne, including backing his grandiose plans to develop the heart of Ballsbridge.

As CEO his blunt style rubbed many up the wrong way. In 2011 he had an egg flung at him at the bank's annual general meeting. His insistence that the bank's PLC status, rather than its dependence on taxpayers, should set the terms of the debate during hearings of the Oireachtas Finance Committee meant he frequently antagonised TDs and senators.

He was described by one TD as having "a hide like a rhino", a simile helped by the Zambia-born rugby fan's heavy South African accent.

He described formerly staid Bank of Ireland succumbing to the then prevailing bubble in earthy terms. "At a wild party even good girls can get into trouble," he said.

But Boucher oversaw a dramatic overhaul of the lender. He secured €1.1bn from backers, including Wilbur Ross, that kept the bank from full nationalisation.

Restructuring, which included around 6,000 job losses and asset transfers to Nama, shrank the bank dramatically but Boucher defied Brussels to retain New Ireland Assurance.

A return to profit has seen Bank of Ireland return €5.9bn to taxpayers for the €4.8bn it received. The State retains a 13pc stake.

Read more: Internal candidates and outsiders in the running for top bank job

Irish Independent

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