Wednesday 21 February 2018

The Punt: Former IFG CEO Bourke is in AIB hot seat

Mark Bourke
Mark Bourke

The amiable former chief executive of financial services firm IFG, Mark Bourke, has started work in his new job at AIB.

It was announced before Christmas that Mr Bourke, who was CEO of IFG for 12 years, would be joining the state-owned bank as its chief financial officer. He formally took up the post on May 7, AIB confirmed yesterday. Mr Bourke has also been officially appointed to the AIB board.

It will all be a big change of pace, The Punt imagines, for Mr Bourke. Apart from a couple of takeover tilts made against IFG in the last three years or so, the financial services group seemed to sort of just trundle along very efficiently.

A solid business, Mr Bourke had been CEO at IFG since 2006. Prior to that, he was its deputy CEO from 2004 and before that its finance director since 2000. After 14 years at IFG, AIB will present a whole new set of challenge.

He began his career with PWC in 1989.

The Punt also wonders whether Mr Bourke will receive either a company car or allowance at AIB – the bank is currently locked in a bitter dispute at the Labour Court with a determined group of workers fighting to keep theirs in the face of cost-cutting measures.

Daly's pay plan might be right

SO NAMA's Frank Daly wants to look at putting in place a retention plan to help hold on to staff, with about 15 lost this year already.

Independent TD Shane Ross branded the idea "mind-boggling" given the current economic climate.

With the average payment in the toxic loans agency at €90,000, it's unlikely that Mr Daly will get much support for the idea from an austerity-weary public.

But The Punt thinks he might have a point. As he said himself, it's not about whether staff in the agency are well paid. It's about the fact that the agency has a short life span. Its goal is to get the best value for taxpayers, but ultimately, and perhaps earlier than the 2020 deadline, it will be wound up.

And, in an improving jobs market, staff are likely looking at prospects of a move to the private sector, where pay is probably better. And yes, bonuses are probably paid.

Trying to hold on to staff may be a challenge. The International Monetary Fund pointed out earlier this week that there were impediments to the Central Bank's ability to attract and retain high-calibre staff.

But it won't be an easy argument.

Coveney runs with big dogs

LIKE most people, The Punt loves a good conspiracy theory. And if you are into conspiracies about secretive groups controlling the global political system, then this should be your favourite time of year.

The Bilderberg Group – named after the hotel in the Netherlands where it first met – was originally set up by a group of European and American businessmen and politicians to promote better understanding between the continents. Since then it has become something of a talking shop, almost like a mini Davos, and meets at a different location annually. This week it is in Copenhagen.

For outsiders, the hugely secretive meetings are routinely portrayed as a chance for businessmen to get their claws into politicians and ensure that whatever laws may be enacted do not damage their company's interests.

While the list of attendees is supposed to be secret, it always leaks. Among the attendees are General Peter Breedlove, the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, and many others.

Former attorney general Peter Sutherland is attending as usual, but making his debut at the meeting is agriculture minister Simon Coveney.

It probably makes sense. If any sector of Ireland's economy can be called strategically important it is probably agriculture.

Keeping in the conspiratorial spirit though, it would be interesting to hear what Enda Kenny really thinks of Mr Coveney attending. The minister has long been seen as a Fine Gael leader in waiting and hob-knobbing with these global figures will only help his international profile. It's the perfect move for somebody with ambitions to lead his party and be Taoiseach ...

Irish Independent

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