Richie Boucher yesterday announced plans to step down from the top job at Bank of Ireland which he has held since the height of the banking crisis, indicating the lender was all but restored to full financial health. A search for his replacement has already begun.
His departure later this year will mark the last of Ireland’s boom-time bankers to exit lenders which needed to be expensively bailed out by taxpayers as the country hurtled into its worst financial crisis and the bailout of late 2010.
Holding senior positions since joining from Royal Bank of Scotland in 2003, Mr Boucher was appointed chief executive in early 2009. A few months earlier the Government had struck the banking guarantee that covered a huge range of the bank bond debt at the bailed-out lenders.
Bank of Ireland received €4.8bn from taxpayers but was nonetheless the only Irish lender to avoid outright nationalisation or closure.
Mr Boucher helped engineer a shares sale involving a trio of international investors, including investor Wilbur Ross, who is now the US Commerce Secretary under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Mr Boucher had repeatedly apologised on behalf of the bank for its lending decisions taken during the boom. But along with the Government, the bank has been quick to add it had paid back the monies pumped into the lender during the crisis.
Bank of Ireland returned to profit almost three years ago but a definitive decision to restart paying a dividend has been delayed. The Government still owns a 14% stake in the bank.
Mr Boucher told the Banking Inquiry many lenders at home and abroad had made the same lending mistakes during the boom years. In recent times, the bank has resisted opposition politicians’ calls for it to follow other Irish lenders in cutting its standard variable mortgage rates.
Including a €234,000 pension contribution, Mr Boucher who turns 59 this year, was paid a total of €958,000 in 2016.
In a sign he was thinking of stepping down, Mr Boucher joined Eurobank Ergasias in Athens as a non-executive director this year.
“He has demonstrated extraordinary and exemplary personal commitment to the group and has brought to everything he has done a clarity of direction and unrelenting focus,” Bank of Ireland said yesterday.
Mr Boucher said: “I will be 59 in August of this year and I feel it best for the group that someone else leads the group’s next stage of development.”
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