Ulster to join other banks for meeting with Kenny
Taoiseach and ministers set to grill CEOs as businesses complain of squeeze on credit
THE chief executive of Ulster Bank will join his peers from AIB and Bank of Ireland at this afternoon's high-level political grilling on banks' lending records to businesses, the Irish Independent has learned.
The RBS-owned bank last night confirmed that its newly appointed CEO James Brown had been called to talks with the Taoiseach, Tanaiste, Finance Minister and Public Expenditure Minister.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the meeting last Friday, saying he would be "bringing in the banks" to ask them about meeting their target of €6bn in SME lending this year.
Since the target only applies to AIB and Bank of Ireland, it was assumed at the time that they would be the only banks in attendance at the meeting with the Economic Council.
It is understood that Ulster has been asked to attend because of its status as the third-largest player in the SME market. While the Government cannot make demands of Ulster, the politicians may be keen to confirm the bank's commitment to the market.
Bank of Ireland will be represented at the talks by CEO Richie Boucher and retail chief executive Des Crowley, while outgoing executive chairman David Hodgkinson will be taking the lead for AIB.
John Trethowan, head of the credit review office, will also be in attendance.
Mr Kenny flagged the talks at a speech to the Small Firms Association, when he said he was still hearing that businesses "can't get access to credit".
This has been a bone of contention with banks in recent years, with bank bosses insisting that demand for credit had been dismal. A comprehensive survey on credit demand is imminent.
Today's meeting will mark the first time that bank bosses have been brought before the Economic Council. They usually deal with the Finance Minister. Sources said they hoped the discussions, which are time-tabled to last an hour and a half, would be "productive".
At the end of August, Mr Trethowan said AIB and Bank of Ireland were unlikely to hit their target of lending €3bn each to SMEs this year, since demand for credit had been low.
Mr Kenny last week said he was "not sure" whether the target could be met by the banks or not. He is expected to ask them what steps they have taken to help them meet the target.