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Elderfield heads for the hills

Posted on: April 23rd, 2013

The directors are putting the champagne on ice down at the Court of the Bank of Ireland. Happy days are here again.

The Bank of Ireland has two reasons for celebration. First, the bankers’ bete noire , regulator Matthew Elderfield, has just announced that he is on the way out of Ireland. Second, BoI boss Richie Boucher’s old pal, Pat Farrell, has revealed that he is on the way in – this time to work as a super spinner for Boucher. The two guys are close: Boucher even attended a milestone birthday party for Pat a couple of years ago. Oh well.

The new broom is in retreat. The old guard is back. Elderfield, barely a wet day in Ireland, is heading home to the UK. Farrell, currently head of the Irish Banking Federation (IBF), has decided to give the Bank of Ireland the benefit of his talents, acquired during the property madness.

Farrell, who has spun so cleverly for Ireland’s bankers for nine troubled years, who spun so well for Fianna Fail as general secretary for six years, who even spun for the EBS for a spell, is now about to spin for the Bank of Ireland.

Bank of Ireland will be run by three of the old guard. Governor Archie Kane will be the titular head. Archie has made a bit of a name for himself since becoming Governor. He has now been twice stripped of performance bonuses, due to losses in the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal at his last employer, Lloyds TSB. Boucher, a miracle survivor of Bank of Ireland’s property lending lunacy, remains chief executive. Farrell, ace banking propagandist and lobbyist during the bankers’ years of shame, will be the main link with the media.

And we wonder why Matthew Elderfield threw in the towel?

We should mourn Elderfield’s exit, not because he leaves having achieved so much, but because he leaves so much to be achieved.

Is there more to Elderfield’s departure than the bland statements offered last week? Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan’s and Minister for Finance Noonan’s responses to the shock news were tailored to reassure the markets.

Honohan affected no surprise: “Although it was evident to me that we were very likely to have Matthew with us for only a few years, it is sad that this period is now drawing to a close.”

Perhaps. But wait, Matthew was on a short five-year contract. He cut and ran after a mere three. A little puzzling with so much still to be done to clean up the banks.