Ulster Bank chief to refuse bonus following disruptions
Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown bowed to political pressure this evening and agreed to waive his bonus for the year.
Mr Brown's comments came after his appearance before a Oireachtas commitee earlier today at which his refusal to rule out accepting a bonus was described as "astounding" and "beyond belief."
Mr Brown was one of three senior executives from Ulster Bank and its parent company Royal Bank of Scotland to appear before the Oireachtas Finance committee to discuss an "unprecedented" technical failure which has left more than 100,000 customers without access to funds for more than two weeks.
Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath said that for Mr Brown to accept any bonus this year "would be rubbing customers’ noses in it".
In response Mr Brown said his bonus situation would only be reviewed at the end of the year. "I don't know if I will get a bonus or not," he said. When pressed as to whether he would accept one if offered it, he said "I will make that decision at the end of the year."
"That you would even consider accepting a bonus is beyond belief," Mr McGrath said.
In a statement issued this evening Mr Brown sought to clarify his position regarding a possible bonus.
“Everyone at Ulster Bank is completely focused on putting things right for our customers. I don’t want there to be any doubt that this is also my personal priority," he said.
"I am personally committed to re-earning the trust of our customers. I have therefore informed the Ulster Bank board that I do not wish to be considered for an annual bonus award for 2012.”
During his appearance at the Oireachtas committee earlier today Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty called on Mr Brown to resign once the current crisis was resolved.
Mr Doherty said Mr Brown would "have no option but to consider your position as chief executive of Ulster Bank".
Fine Gael’s Kieran O'Donnell also pressed Mr Brown on his bonus but the banker refused to discuss the issue further.
The Ulster Bank chief executive also refused to disclose how much he earned and when asked about his salary by Independent TD Shane Ross he described the details of salary as "private information which I don't want to share." He said bank customers who wanted to know how much he was paid would have to wait until October when the information would be published in the bank's annual report.
Also appearing before the committee today, were Chris Sullivan from the parent company Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank's Jim Ryan.
Committee chairman Alex White asked all three executives if they could confirm media reports that the IT team responsible for the software which failed had been halved recently with widespread redundancies imposed but all three said they did not know, something which Mr White described as extraordinary.
Mr Brown confirmed that the number of customers affected by the system collapse was now around 600,000 - a 600 per cent increase on the bank's initial estimate. "As the problem had dragged on more customers have been impacted and that is why the numbers have risen."
When asked about compensation Mr Brown was looking at what could be done for customers "over and above the costs incurred and I would expect to be able to make an announcement on that early next week."
He did however confirm that Ulster Bank would pass on today's ECB rate cut to standard variable rate customers.
He said resolving the problems had been "complex, time consuming and frustratingly slow" but he expressed confidence that a resolution was in sight and said the company was set to meet its target of having "the vast majority" of accounts in order by July 16th.
The committee chairman Alex White drew attention to a number of statements made by the bank about when the problems would be resolved in the first week of the crisis and asked why people should believe anything the bank said when so many of its utterances in the early stages were wrong.
Mr Brown said all public comments made by the bank had been done "in good faith" but said the level of information the bank now had was considerably more detailed.