The chief executive of EBS is not an AIB lifer, but has a reasonable amount of international experience, including working in Asia for Rabobank. Murphy also worked earlier in his career with French banking giant BNP. He is the only chief executive of an Irish bank still standing following the global financial crisis. He has a good relationship with the Department of Finance and has been very frank about the level of write-offs and provisions occurring at his bank because of commercial property lending decisions. Murphy also worked for a time in the property sector at Shelbourne Developments and is also relatively young for an Irish banking boss. However, AIB is a very insular organisation and many of its executives tend to look down upon mutuals, of which EBS is one.
Gallagher is a highly regarded Ulster Bank executive, but crucially spent large parts of his career in AIB, ironically working in the AIB Capital Markets division where Colm Doherty now hails from. Working closely with Cormac McCarthy, Gallagher has spent time as chief executive of Ulster Bank Corporate & Financial Markets, with responsibility for the Republic and Northern Ireland. A chartered accountant, Gallagher has been on the executive board of Ulster Bank for several years. When the AIB position came up, Gallagher was mentioned by several sources as a possible outside option for AIB. Gallagher has only been with Ulster Bank since September 2005, so would know the culture of AIB well. At the time of his appointment, Gallagher said his main reason for joining was because Ulster Bank could start taking on AIB and Bank of Ireland in a major way. Gallagher, who has spent large chunks of his career in corporate banking, has a wide network of connections among the leading Irish plcs, which would have been helpful in times when corporate deposits are absolutely vital and lending to high margin, but safe, accounts is a key concern for AIB. Gallagher also worked in Australia for Citigroup.
If AIB had gone for Crowley it would have been a very bold stroke. AIB simply does not, based on its history, recruit CEOs from its deadly rival, Bank of Ireland. However Crowley has a huge amount of experience and has little chance of getting the Bank of Ireland CEO job for the foreseeable future since Richie Boucher slipped into that post earlier this year. Crowley has been on the Bank of Ireland board (or court) for the last three years and is an accountant, having worked previously with Arthur Andersen. He has spent the last 20 years working in a series of roles at Bank of Ireland, including chief executive of retail banking in Ireland and head of the UK financial services arm. Crowley has also spent considerable time working on Bank of Ireland's UK post office joint venture. While Crowley's background is probably too heavy on the retail side of the bank, there is little doubt his appointment would have been the most interesting choice of all. However, the public reaction to it would have been understandably negative - with one Irish banker simply being replaced by another.
The dream candidate for AIB, but Barrett would be highly unlikely to take up an executive role. The former chief executive and chairman of Barclays was born in Kerry and educated by the Christian Brothers and retains strong links to this country. The best AIB could have hoped for would be if Barrett accepted a chairman's role. Barrett is now settled in Canada, but does sit on the board of some Middle-Eastern banks and remains a non-executive director at Goldman Sachs. Despite all of this, Barrett, a colourful personality at the best of times, would have been an ideal chairman of AIB, although this would have left Dan O'Connor surplus to requirements. Barrett is very ambitious for any institution he works for, but he has no experience of working in smaller, insular banking markets like Ireland, although he did start his career at a small bank branch in London and knows a lot about retail banking.
The one that got away according to some reports from the AIB selection process. McGee would have been a huge fish for AIB to land as its chief executive, considering he was once in the running to take over at Bank of America, one of the largest bank in the United States. However, McGee, a Donegal man, was reported to be interested, even though he would have been taking a significant pay cut. It all became academic last month when he took up the chief executive role at Hartford Financial Services Group, a struggling US insurer. McGee was previously the head of consumer banking at Bank of America. Ironically, in his new role McGee will hold the chief executive and chairman's role, despite this being frowned upon by corporate governance experts in Europe and the US.
This is the candidate the board of AIB would love to have landed, but there was very little chance of them ever getting someone like McDonagh to take the job. Apart from having to re-locate, McDonagh would have seen his annual salary and share options dwindle if he moved into AIB Bankcentre. McDonagh is currently head of HSBC's North American operations, but was brought up on Dublin's northside and educated at Trinity College. He got his first job with HSBC after writing a letter and CV to banks all over the world, looking for work. McDonagh keeps in touch with Ireland and is involved in the America Ireland Fund. While the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan could have altered the cap on salaries to attract McDonagh or equivalent, there appears to be no public acceptance than any bank executive should be paid a salary anywhere near €1m.
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