AIB's new chairman-designate, the British banker Richard Pym, is a most interesting appointment to oversee the board of what was once the country's top bank. The highly-regarded turnaround merchant has clearly been brought in to help it prepare for privatisation. Compared to his last gig, it should be a cinch.
AIB, which swallowed about €22 billion of taxpayers money to keep it afloat, until has its problems but crack-smoking directors are not among them.
In his current role at Co-Op bank, Pym has mopped up admirably at the troubled institution after his predecessor Paul Flowers left in a drugs haze. He oversaw a £1.5 billion fund raising last year that saved the bank, and oversaw the planning for an upcoming £400 million that will put it on a firmer footing.
Pym was appointed at Co-Op only a year ago and was expected to stay for three years. Co-Op’s loss appears to be AIB’s gain. Pym has a big reputation in Britain. He left Alliance and Leicester in good shape a year before the financial crisis took hold and is one of the few senior British bankers to negotiate the crisis with barely a blot on his copybook. Barely.
When he was chairman at Brandford and Bingley as the crisis raged in 2008, Pym declared it was adequately capitalised and "fit for purpose". Two days later, the Financial Services Authority calculated that it was under capitalised and some of its assets are now being wound down in the UK's bad bank.
Following the episode, a Labour MP dubbed Pym "the Michael Fish of finance", after the weatherman famed for his hit and miss forecasts.
Closer to home, the government is expected to try to recoup some of the cash it has invested in AIB by at least part-privatising it before the next election in 2016.
Michael Noonan has already specultaed the State's stake is worth up to €11 billion. The appointment of Mr Pym, a turnaround specialist, should be viewed in that context.