Business Irish

Friday 24 November 2017

The Punt: AIB hopes to get it right with talking heads

John Whelan, former CEO of The Irish Exporters Association
John Whelan, former CEO of The Irish Exporters Association

AIB is really pushing its strategy of positioning itself as the 'go-to' source for industry expertise, a scheme that does not come without risks.

The latest move by the state-owned bank is to hire John Whelan, ex-chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, as its export sector specialist. AIB said the new gig is all about helping AIB to better understand customers from the world of exporting, in particular, getting to grips with the needs of indigenous SMEs.

But The Punt reckons it hasn't been lost on David Duffy that John Whelan's phone number also just happens to be filed under "exports" in the contacts book of every business journalist in the country.

By tapping what is already an established media brand the bank no doubt hopes to bask in the reflected glow when he's rolled out in future for comments. It's a good plan, and fits with the series of SME sector reports now being published by the bank – which have so far looked at areas like dairy, hotels and retail.

Solid publications in their own right, the reports also consciously seek to link AIB to SMEs and sectoral expertise in the public mind.

Nothing wrong with that of course, it's good marketing sense.

At least it is until you consider previous efforts of the Irish banks to set their spokesmen up as expert commentators on issues like, oh, the economy and the housing market.

We need no reminding of how well that all panned out.

ARDMORE VESSELS NAVIGATE  COURSE FOR PROFIT

A few years back there was a glut of cargo ships and tankers about to hit the high seas, just as the world economy was in the doldrums. But things have moved on, and all seems to be ship-shape and Bristol fashion for Cork-based group Ardmore Shipping.

The company, which floated on the New York Stock Exchange last year, is controlled via an entity in the Marshall Islands and is backed by private equity group Greenbriar Equity. Among its management team is Anthony Gurnee, Mark Cameron and Paul Tinvan. Former Aer Lingus chief financial officer Brian Dunne is a non-executive director at the group.

Ardmore informed the stock exchange this week that it has taken delivery of its Ardmore Seavantage vessel, a product and chemical tanker built in South Korea. It has already been chartered to the Vitol Group under an existing arrangement. Earlier this month, Ardmore also took delivery of another vessel, built in 2006, and now called the Ardmore Semariner. It's a product tanker and will soon commence a three-month charter at a rate of $16,050 a day.

Another vessel has been committed to a 12-month charter at $17,100 a day. That's about $2,000 more a day than such ships were being charted at a year ago. A fair breeze in Ardmore's sails, it seems.

MINCON EXECS SHARE €1.2m AMONG EMPLOYEES

Now that's what we call a "ground-breaking" move from an Irish company. The company in question is Shannon-based drill maker Mincon, which was founded by trained accountant and one-time Air Corps apprentice Paddy Purcell in 1977.

Just months after a highly successful IPO, Mr Purcell and the company's chief executive Kevin Barry have decided to dig into their own pockets and shell out €1.2m to their employees, or €1,000 per worker for each year of service. Not bad, not bad at all.

Of course, this isn't Mincon's first foray into positive PR and general niceness. The company gained worldwide publicity after its hardware was responsible for reaching 33 stranded Chilean miners in 2010. One of its reverse-circulation drills bored a hole 14cm wide that became the lifeline to the men.

We hope this is the start of a trend and are curious to see which Irish Stock Exchange-listed company will be next to publicly demonstrate a big heart. Will Fyffes give free bananas for life? Will the banks throw a decent savings rate in their staff's direction?

Irish Independent

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