My bailout experience: How business fared
Irish business people reflect on how their companies got through the bailout years and how it affected their personal lives
Steve Thatcher: founder of IrishBankruptUK.ie
John Bohan: MD of Apex Fund services
Dylan Cullen: Founder of Appreciating Assets
Yvonne Barry: Partner of Quintas, chair of Cork foundation
Mark Whelan: organiser of Dubstarts jobs fair
Steve Thatcher (Solicitor, founder of IrishBankruptUK.ie)
The same year Ireland entered the bailout programme, I set up the firm Irish Bankruptcy UK to help Irish people go bankrupt in the UK. Since then my clients have written off more than €1.5 billion of debt in the UK, where bankruptcy usually lasts 12 months.
The troika indicated that Ireland needed to modernise its insolvency laws, which hit home to people how unfair Irish law was and so they began to look on the UK’s system more favourably. The Government’s inaction and slow response to new legislation of the personal insolvency laws meant a lot of people couldn’t see a solution in Ireland within the timeframe they needed.
Here we are five years after the crash and we are only now seeing the first insolvency cases emerge. Meanwhile, many people have been over to the UK and are back in Ireland debt-free, getting on with their lives.
The feelgood factor brought about by exiting the bailout should not be underestimated; it can only be positive both in Ireland and abroad. However, I think the Government not taking a precautionary line of credit was a gamble.
We are still hearing harrowing stories of people under extreme pressure from their banks and who are at breaking point. Exit from the bailout isn’t going to have an immediate effect on the policies and finances of Irish banks, so people are still going to have to find their own solutions.
John Bohan (MD of Apex Fund Services)
From late 2008 onwards when we were selling Ireland Inc, managers outside of Ireland found it very difficult to separate the banking crisis from the standards of regulation and services that were maintained across the industry. Funds serviced or domiciled in Ireland had their bank accounts with banks that were non-Irish and non-troika related but nevertheless a cloud of doubt hung over Ireland and we had to fight to maintain ground.
The bailout programme impacts everyone that falls under the banner of Ireland Inc. We sent a very clear message globally and were one of the first amongst the unfortunate acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) to lay out a clear plan and tackle it head-on. As each quarter passed and we met our fiscal key point indicators laid down for us, it increased global confidence and ensured the first trickles of investment into the economy as global investors began to see opportunities.
I believe in five years we will come into another time of unprecedented growth but one borne out of innovation and technological development as opposed to a hyper inflation of property and banking shares. We should put our sons and daughters to bed at night with wicked fairy tales of the property boom to ensure they do not repeat the sins of their fathers.
Dylan Cullen (Founder of Appreciating Assets)
When Ireland entered the bailout programme, we were already a couple of years into the downturn. However, until then people were hoping that we were experiencing a temporary economic blip and were holding out for an improvement. For a lot of people the bailout crystallised how bad the situation was and it was only then that lots of people realised things weren’t going to improve soon.
We’re in the property business, which is not a liquid market so it’s a big decision to turn down an offer. Until the bailout, people were confident enough to turn down offers for their properties and hopefully wait for better one. However, once the bailout came we saw more people start to accept offers. This was largely due to the uncertainty that people felt; they were either not confident a better offer would come, or they had more urgency to turn their assets into cash in case it was needed.
I don’t think Ireland’s exit of the bailout programme will have too much of an immediate effect. The country is far from in the clear, and we still have a large deficit to deal with. I’m not sure we have left the bailout in the correct manner. A line of credit from Europe would have provided a financial crutch. If you try to walk on an injury unaided too soon then you can do more damage and set your recovery back much further. I hope this analogy doesn’t soon apply to Ireland.
Mark Whelan (Organiser of Dubstarts jobs fair)
I think emigration and cynicism regarding job prospects have clawed their way back into our psyche. I would even go so far as to say that emigrating has become synonymous with ambition among students in Ireland. In most cases, this perception is not based on facts, data or actual job prospects, but the newly-entrenched belief that Ireland is a place where ambitious, talented people will not be able to fulfil their potential.
News of Ireland exiting the bailout hasn’t had the impact it perhaps should have had. Students – and all individuals at a career crossroads for that matter – don’t have the time to wait and see if things are going to improve. That’s when emigration becomes an option. At Dubstarts, we are striving to show that there are exciting opportunities for students in the start-up space in Ireland . . . I think the recession has contributed to growing openness among students to a career with a start-up and I think people are more willing to enter the high-risk, high-potential world of start-ups.
Perhaps the most significant way in which austerity measures have impacted me is seeing some of my closest friends emigrate. One is now in Colombia, another is in Canada and another is in Singapore and all because of a perceived lack of opportunities in Ireland. It is my experience of seeing these people leave that acts as a key motivator in my work with Dubstarts.
Yvonne Barry (Partner of Quintas, chair of Cork Foundation)
By the time of the troika’s arrival I think the Irish public and business community had already suffered from the strained banking system, collapsing domestic economy and the first of the austerity budgets. However, the bailout compounded this pain and unease and added to the public’s sense of mistrust in the Government and banks.
Business for the majority of our clients suffered significant falls, which meant they had to implement harsh cost-cutting programmes and work harder to earn less money. Unfortunately, we had some clients who had unsustainable debt levels and whose businesses collapsed.
Most of our clients made the difficult adjustments over the last few years, which positioned them well to take advantage of the small upturn in the economy. It will be a good few years before they manage to rebuild their businesses and balance sheets but at least they can look forward with a little more confidence now.
I believe Ireland has done remarkably well to deal with the targets and demands of the troika. At the beginning of the process most of our celebrity economists stated there was no way we could deal with the cuts and tax increases and yet we put our heads down, constantly hit the ambitious targets and are on the brink of a successful exit.
I think the exit will have a very positive effect on consumers.