Permanent TSB (PTSB) top finance and operations executives are on a list of candidates vying to take over as the lender’s chief executive, as it advances plans for a major cost-cutting exercise.
Eamonn Crowley, who joined the bank as chief financial officer three years ago from AIB’s former Polish subsidiary Bank Zachodni, and group director of operations Shane O’Sullivan, who has worked with the bank for two decades and was responsible for the management of PTSB’s bad loans following the financial crash, are the only internal figures on a list, according to sources.
The list has been whittled down in recent months to fewer than 10 candidates and includes female finance industry executives and overseas-based executives.
At the end of 2018, women made up only 28 per cent of senior management but 57 per cent of the total workforce, according to its latest annual report.
A spokeswoman for the bank said the selection process was “ongoing”. PTSB’s chief executive since 2012, Jeremy Masding, announced last October that he was preparing to step down in 2020.
The Irish Times reported at the time that PTSB was working on a restructuring plan that is expected to involve the closure of about a fifth of the lender’s 77-strong branch network and the elimination of 10-15 per cent of its workforce. That equates to between 240 and 360 positions.
Four of the five remaining retail banks in the Republic are working on cost-cutting blueprints as the wider industry seeks to offset the impact on their income of ultra-low central bank and market interest rates and muted demand for loans.
PTSB was also understood last year to be weighing a sale of its headquarters at 55-59 St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. However, this is no longer under consideration.
A new chief executive is not expected to be picked by the time PTSB reports 2019 financial results at the end of February. The board may hold off on signing off on a final restructuring plan until the new chief executive is in place.
US-headquartered executive search group Heidrick & Struggles, which opened an Irish office early last year, is running the international trawl for the bank’s next head.
As key members of PTSB’s executive team, Mr Crowley and Mr O’Sullivan are heavily involved in current planning around cost savings. As such, the selection of either would lead to greater continuity in the process.
The chief executive search is also taking place against the backdrop of a continuing cap on executive pay at Irish bailed-out banks and an effective ban on bonuses, due to the 89 per cent special tax to which they would be subject.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe set about commissioning a report into remuneration in the sector almost two years ago. The final document, completed by executive search firm Korn Ferry last June and known to recommend an easing of the restrictions, had not been brought to Cabinet by the time the Dáil was dissolved last week.
Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman, said last week that his party would maintain restrictions on bankers’ pay if it came to power.
“We have no proposals to lift the restrictions that are in place in respect of the pay cap,” Mr McGrath told reporters in Dublin on Thursday. He said Fianna Fáil would not revisit the issue until the tracker-mortgage scandal was finally dealt with and new laws were in place to make finance executives more accountable for failings under their watch.
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