Former Ulster Bank CEO Cormac McCarthy dies suddenly aged 58

McCarthy was First Active’s chief and presided over its sale to Ulster Bank

Cormac McCarthy, the former chief executive of Ulster Bank and one-time finance chief of bookmaker Paddy Power, has died suddenly. He was 58.

An accountant by training, Mr McCarthy started his career at Stokes Kennedy Crowley, now KPMG, in 1983, and went on seven years later to join Woodchester Investments in Dublin, before being hired by First Active in a senior finance role at the time of the lender's stock market flotation in 1998.

Mr McCarthy became First Active's chief executive at the turn of the century and presided over its sale in 2003 to Ulster Bank, part of the NatWest Group, then known as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). He became Ulster Bank CEO on completion of the deal.

Commenting on Mr McCarthy's death Jane Howard, chief executive of Ulster Bank, said: "I know many colleagues, including myself, worked with Cormac personally, during his time in First Active, Ulster Bank and RBS, and knew him very well. Cormac led the Bank during a period of significant change both in the Bank and in Ireland in general, and he always brought great energy to the table.


“ He was held in high regard and we will remember his drive, determination and leadership,” she said.

Once touted as a potential CEO of the wider RBS group, Mr McCarthy would step down from Ulster Bank in 2011, following the initial shock of the financial crisis that resulted in the bank accepting a £15 billion (€17.5 billion) bailout from its parent. A person familiar with Mr McCarthy’s thinking at the time of the crisis said on Tuesday that he felt a “deep sense of moral responsibility” to steady Ulster Bank as the wider financial system imploded.

Another former associate, Bobbie Bergin, who previously headed corporate affairs at Ulster Bank and also worked with Mr McCarthy at First Active, said: "Cormac was driven, disciplined and fiercely intelligent – qualities that, in turn, demanded that you raise your own game."

“However, in his dealings, he was always his own hardest task master and critic and, in this regard, his personal integrity was second to none. All of these qualities combined to make him a hugely charismatic leader – one who many people across many industries and walks of life learned from and were the better for knowing.”

More recently, Mr McCarthy, a sports enthusiast, served as chief financial officer of bookmaker Paddy Power between 2011 and its merger in 2016 with Betfair. The group was subsequently rebranded as Flutter Entertainment.

Mr McCarthy became a non-executive director on the board of DCC, the Dublin-based fuel-to-electronics conglomerate, four years ago. He became the non-executive chairman of stainless steel kitchen equipment group H+K International in 2019.

Mr McCarthy his survived by his wife, Laura, and four adult children.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times