Ireland’s bank CEOs play to their audiences

Dominic O’Neill
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The scale of the banking crisis in Ireland has made those banks’ leaders into national figures. There is often a theatrical element to Irish public life and the bank CEOs are convincing actors.

Richie Boucher, CEO of Bank of Ireland, has a reputation as a direct, no-nonsense operator. He has won respect in the financial community, but his tough style, longevity at the top and even his southern African accent have made him a controversial figure in the Irish media. "Staff recognise him as the best banker in the country," says a local source. "He’s an easy target because he’s foreign and blunt," says another.

A well-known aversion to mortgage write-downs, in particular, has drawn a degree of popular criticism. Despite some genuinely harsh circumstances, Boucher’s relatively hard stance may have been appropriate, says a local economist, as the crisis led to a rash of strategic defaults: "There has been an element of...