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Former PTSB chief Jeremy Masding offers advice on managing crises to SOBs

Irish banking implosion and international bailout of State get fleeting reference in chapter on crisis management in book co-authored by Masding

Former PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding admits in a book he recently co-wrote on how to manage a company, Leading Without Winging It, that he’s had to, on occasion, do just that.

Masding and his co-author, Emil Ivanov, a Bulgarian consultant he hired as a strategy and planning director immediately after taking charge of the then ailing Irish lender 12 years ago, say that sometimes a decision must be taken without all the necessary facts. In this case the duo advise executives to listen to their gut – even if winging it “should be the exception, rather than the rule”.

Readers looking for nuggets on the mess encountered at PTSB in 2012 and how Masding went about saving the bank will be left disappointed in this fairly prescriptive leadership manual – offered as an alternative to the CEO autobiographies and academic tomes that crowd business section bookshelves.

The Irish banking implosion (PTSB required a €4 billion bailout months before Masding took over) and subsequent international bailout of the State get a fleeting reference in their chapter on crisis management.

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They advise managers in a crisis situation to move quickly to grasp its “raw and extreme reality” and tackle it head-on, avoid succumbing to panic, and having a “laser-like focus” on what really matters to protect a business.

Readers might have been better served, however, with firm examples from experience. At PTSB, Masding had to lead the development of mortgage arrears systems from scratch, convince the government and the European Commission the bank was even worth saving, and, against the odds, complete the sale of its UK loan book in 2016 after the Brexit vote, while offloading billions more of problem mortgages.

Masding departed PTSB in mid-2020, months before it emerged Ulster Bank was exiting the market and his successor, Eamonn Crowley, transformed the bank’s outlook by moving to acquire €6.8 billion of loans from the UK-owned lender. (Masding is now a senior adviser to US distressed debt firm Cerberus, one of the most active acquirers of Irish banks’ loans following the crash, including PTSB’s UK loans.)

A chapter in the book that jumps out centres around narcissistic executives – or “seductive operational bullies” (SOBs). “There is a widespread belief in the corporate world that CEOs need to be somewhat narcissistic to be effective in their work. In our opinion, this is false.”

Chief executives without empathy, who seek admiration or domination, whose personal interests come first, can never be effective leaders, they say. Their advice for those with an SOB for a boss: move on. If they encountered such individuals in Irish banking, the authors are not saying.