Former INBS branch manager rejects allegations of non-compliance

Gary McCollum denies having been head of commercial lending with Irish Nationwide

The defunct Irish Nationwide Building Society, as it previously appeared on Dublin’s Grafton Street

The defunct Irish Nationwide Building Society, as it previously appeared on Dublin’s Grafton Street

 

A former UK branch manager of Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) has said he should not be held responsible for the actions of the building society’s credit committee, as he was never a senior executive with the financial institution.

Appearing before a long-running inquiry into the now-defunct Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), Gary McCollum rejected allegations of prescribed contraventions as he said it would have been “impossible” for him to comply with provisions he was unaware of.

Mr McCollum denied having been head of commercial lending with INBS and said while his role required him to contribute to the lending process, he was not the one to grant approval for loans.

Breaches

The INBS inquiry, originally set up in 2015 on foot of a Central Bank order and which started public hearings almost three years’ ago, held its first public session of 2020 last Friday, having been delayed for months due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The inquiry was set up to look into seven sets of alleged regulatory breaches - or suspected prescribed contraventions – between July, 2006 and September, 2008.

Appearing before the inquiry, Mr McCollum on Tuesday, Mr McCollum said his job at Irish Nationwide was ‘UK Branch Manager’, with responsibility for managing staff in London and Belfast branches, as sell as managing customer relationships and loans and INBS’s reporting requirements to the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England.

The inquiry’s three-person panel, chaired by Marian Shanley, has previously examined three of the suspected contraventions: concerning the role of INBS’s credit committee; reporting to the board on commercial lending; and absence of a formal credit policy for the setting up of profit share agreements with developers on building projects.

The final four suspected contraventions - all relating to the 98 specific loans that were granted to borrowers before the 2008 property crash - are being wrapped up in the final phase which will continue into early 2021.

Impositions

Mr McCollum said he was never a senior manager of INBS and was not made aware of the three statutory impositions under which allegations against him have been made.

He was made a member of the credit committee in December 2007 but said he was told he would have no liability or role in the post.

Mr McCollum said he was only ever present for one meeting by telephone of the committee in the nine-months to September, 2008, and did not receive agendas or minutes from others.

He said several of the allegations being made against him relate to documents being missing or not evidenced and said he believed a “substantial” amount of documentation relating to UK lending was unaccounted for.

He added that it was the responsibility of the branch supervisor to ensure documents were completed to loans being issued and said that in 2009 he voiced concern about some not being available.

Mr McCollum and former finance director John Stanley Purcell are the only remaining subjects to the inquiry.

Since public hearings started, the Central Bank has reached settlement agreements with two of the five former INBS figures – former chairman Michael Walsh and one-time head of commercial lending Tom McMenamin. It dropped its case against the lender’s former long-standing managing director, Michael Fingleton (82), last December due to his ill health.