Cantillon: BoI a good girl in bad company?
Boucher surprises the crowd in response to Dobson’s uncomfortable questions
“When there’s a wild party even the good girls get into trouble,” said Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher in response to questions about thebank’s property lending in the boom years. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The worst might be over for the Irish banking sector but there can still be some uncomfortable moments for industry executives, as illustrated in a panel discussion at yesterday’s Ibec chief executive conference in Dublin.
After delivering a solid speech that reiterated Bank of Ireland’s improved health and willingness to supply more than €30 billion to the Irish economy over the next five years, chief executive Richie Boucher was grilled by master of ceremonies Bryan Dobson of RTÉ.
Dobbo focused his questions on aspects of the sector’s collapse six years ago and its recovery with the aid of taxpayers funds.
“I think obviously everyone does things to different degrees,” Boucher said in response to a question about the bank’s property lending in the boom years. “But when there’s a wild party even the good girls get into trouble.”
This drew a mixtures of gasps and nervous laughter from the audience. “What did he just say?” said one woman to another sitting in front of Cantillon.
It was certainly a curious answer by Boucher, who was probably just trying
to inject a bit of levity into proceedings
for the benefit of the audience – after all, this session took place just before the lunch break.
Boucher wasn’t the only person on the panel looking uncomfortable at Dobson’s line of questioning. After finishing with Boucher, Dobson turned to Anne Heraty, chief executive of recruitment firm CPL, whom he said would have some “interesting insights” on banking.
An understatement, if ever there was one. Heraty was a non-executive director of Anglo Irish Bank at the time of its collapse, resigning her role just before the bank was nationalised in early 2009.
“I’d be very surprised if lessons had not been deeply learned,” Heraty replied sheepishly to Dobbo’s question. It was an expensive €34.7 billion lesson for taxpayers to bail out Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, Anglo’s successor.