Bank of Ireland appoints Scot as governor

Those distinguished former Bank of Ireland governors must be turning in their graves.

A Glaswegian by the name of Archie Kane has been appointed as governor succeeding Pat Molloy.

People called Archie tend to wear striped jackets, dance, carry canes, and work in music halls.

This Archie, as it happens, is a chartered accountant who for some years ran a well-known Edinburgh-based insurance company, Scottish Widows.

Kane is also a supporter of Glasgow Celtic, who enjoys a sing song.

Like all good Scots financiers, he knows how to charge.

When he took over Scottish Widows, in 2003, the pensions and funds management company was in deep trouble. He was expected to shake the place out, as the man who would “draw the veil over the Widow”.

In fact, the company thrived on the back of a booming economy. Kane boosted business by targeting high net worth individuals.

He also boosted his own income. In 2006, his pay hit £1.25m (€1.5m), having increased 50% in two years.

Now 60, Archie spent his early years in accountancy before joining the TSB in 1986.

In 1995, he played a key part in negotiating the takeover of the TSB by Lloyds Bank becoming director of IT and Operations at the merged Lloyds TSB.

In 1999, he joined the board of Lloyds and was one of those involved in the much less happy decision on the part of Lloyds to acquire the heavily holed HBOS in the autumn of 2008.

It is suggested that the then Lloyds boss, Eric Daniels, came under heavy pressure from the Government under Gordon Brown to execute the deal in an effort to rescue HBOS.

Kane ended up as head of the Lloyds insurance business before departing in spring 2011 in a shakeout carried out by the new Lloyds chief executive, Spaniard Antonio Horta Osorio. The new CEO later departed himself for some months’ leave, suffering from stress, before later returning to the hot seat.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Lloyds was stripping 13 executives, present and former, of a combined £2m in bonuses as a penalty for a financial scandal that cost the bank £3.2bn in provisions in its 2011 accounts.

The former boss, Daniels, had to forfeit, 40% of his remuneration. Kane suffered a clawback of £190,000 out of a total pay package worth £767,000 in 2010.

It is anticipated that other British banks will have to cough up a total of £6bn in compensation to their consumers.

Kane, however, has earned a strong reputation as an operations man and Bank of Ireland will be calling on his strategic expertise in this area.

2012 is proving to be a tougher year than expected for BoI as prospects of recovery begin to fade and concerns about the adequacy of last year’s recapitalisation gather amid growing concerns about mortgage defaults, in particular.

However, the bank has some strong members on its board, as it sets out to navigate the choppy waters ahead.

Wilbur Ross, the renowned US bottom fisher, has been joined as a director by India-born Prem Watsa, the man dubbed “the Oracle of Ontario” and “Canada’s Warren Buffett”.

Ross and Watsa, through his company, Fairfax, pumped over a billion into bank of Ireland, last summer. This resulted in a drop in the State’s stake to 15%.

Watsa is a renowned value investor, who was among the first to warn, more than five years ago, of the impending financial crash.

A contrarian, he has been a bull in the bear market, having been a bear in a bull one, though he nearly came to grief a decade ago, following an unwise investment in a New York insurance company.

Watsa will no doubt be eager to compare notes with Archie.

The view from BoI is that Molloy has used his political nous to engineer a recapitalisation, helping to shore up the balance sheet. Costs have been cut with total numbers employed dropping from 3,700 to 3,100.

Further jobs must go and Kane’s task will be to achieve a restoration of the bank to operational health, doing for the P&L what was achieved — on the surface at least — on the balance sheet side.

Whereas AIB has gone for a big bang jobs reduction of 2,500, Bank of Ireland is opting for cuts made on a case-by-case basis, an approach also favoured by Lloyds TSB, Kane’s former employer.

We can only hope that Archie will give everyone reason to sing happy tunes rather than Scottish laments.

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