AIB picks internal candidate Hilary Gormley to lead UK unit

Move comes as division’s current postholder Robert Mulhall is to leave group

AIB has named Hilary Gormley, who has been with the group for more than three decades, as the next managing director of its UK unit, which has undergone a major restructuring in recent times.

The move, which is subject to approval by UK financial regulators, comes as the division's current postholder Robert Mulhall, as reported by The Irish Times last month, is leaving the group after more than 25 years, spread over two periods with the bank.

Ms Gormley, a Dublin native, is currently head of business banking at AIB Capital Markets, including corporate and institutional banking. She also spent a number of years in the wake of the financial crash working in senior roles in the bank’s problem loans unit, known as the financial solutions group, including being involved in the sale of non-performing debt.

The appointment comes as AIB has set its sights on growing corporate lending in niche areas such as renewable energy, manufacturing and warehousing in Britain as it gets out of SME lending in that market. The group also moved to close eight of its remaining 15 retail branches in Northern Ireland in 2021.

The bank is cutting 300 jobs as a result of an agreement in November to sell its £600 million (€719 million) small-business loan book in Britain to London-based challenger lender Allica Bank, reducing the UK workforce to about 600.

AIB’s exit from the labour-intensive SME segment of the British market will save it an estimated €35 million in the coming years.

Ms Gormley has joined AIB’s key executive committee, or ExCo, as part of the promotion.

This has tipped the balance in favour of women holding most of the seats on the key 11-person committee for the first time at the bank. However, the group's chief risk officer and ExCo member Deirdre Hannigan is preparing to step down in the coming months. Her successor has not yet been identified.

"Hilary's appointment to the AIB executive committee from within the ranks of the bank once again clearly demonstrates the strong internal talent and succession bench strength that is now in place at leadership level," said Colin Hunt, AIB chief executive, in a statement to The Irish Times confirming the selection.

Mr Mulhall, AIB’s UK managing director since March 2020, will be working closely with Ms Gormley over the coming months before he leaves the company. It is expected that he will move into the banking technology space after leaving AIB.

Mr Mulhall headed up AIB’s Irish retail and commercial banking business between 2015 and early 2020 and was among senior figures at the group to throw their hats into the ring as it searched for a new chief executive in late 2018, in the wake of Bernard Byrne’s decision to quit. Mr Hunt, another internal candidate, was ultimately selected.