One of my friends got out of banking a few months before the credit crunch, disillusioned by the empire-building and lack of talent he witnessed every day. As he put it: "Look at the points for commerce in Irish universities. Most of the people who go into banking aren't very smart but they are well-off."
He might well have been talking about Sean FitzPatrick, the self-styled maverick banker who has brought the country to its knees. In their excellent book, The FitzPatrick Tapes, journalists Tom Lyons and Brian Carey give FitzPatrick enough rope to hang himself and he does exactly that.
FitzPatrick views himself as a big ideas man but comes across as deluded.
From still thinking he could be capped by the Irish rugby team until he was in his late 20s, to admitting he only got into banking because his new employer gave preferential loan rates for home purchases, it's clear that FitzPatrick was a dreamer.
The problem was that his own attitude permeated the bank's culture – lack of attention to paperwork, informal meetings to discuss major issues, ad-hoc decisions later rubber-stamped by the bank's credit committee to name but a view.
Most importantly, FitzPatrick did not learn from previous mistakes: Sean Quinn wasn't the first to build up a major stake in the bank without FitzPatrick knowing how; Anglo took over Irish Bank of Commerce in part because it had suffered losses on loans to developers; the first major loan Anglo made in the US went wrong but FitzPatrick continued to believe that in lending it was the tenant that mattered, not the building's owner and so on.
To call this book Fitzpatrick's version of events would do it a disservice as it's clear that Lyons and Carey interviewed a wide variety of sources, some quoted, some not.
FitzPatrick comes across as a man who never wanted to say 'no'. And so he made spur-of-the-moment investment decisions with his own money, just as he had
with the bank.
Now both are insolvent.