Bank of Ireland yesterday announced that Francesca McDonagh would become its chief executive later this year, replacing Richie Boucher in the role. Ms McDonagh is currently head of Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at HSBC in London, and has worked in a number of locations around the world during her career. It is the first time Bank of Ireland has named a female CEO and, as an external appointment, shareholders will hope the firm will be able to benefit from her international experience.
"I would say the hand over will go fairly well, I would expect," said Professor Niamh Brennan, who lectures in Corporate Governance at UCD. "The reason is that staff at the bank will be highly motivated to support the new CEO, even more so because it is somebody from outside. Francesca McDonagh has extraordinary experience of moving to new places - in fact it's the standout thing about her CV as I see it."
Ms McDonagh has worked in places like Dubai, Panama, Egypt and Hong Kong, which Ms Brennan said will stand to her in this latest move. "She is somebody who is extremely used to coming in to different cultures and making a success of it," Professor Brennan said.
Not only will that experience be of benefit to Ms McDonagh in making the move, it will also be of benefit to the bank - and they can likely expect her approach to management to be different to what has gone before. "Inevitably because it is a female CEO in what is traditionally a very male culture, I think she'll bring a different style and I think that may very well stand to the bank," the Professor Brennan said. "I would say it will be very encouraging to staff in the bank to have somebody with such a different profile - both female and with that international expertise."
Given her experience in HSBC the fact that she may be in a male-dominated workplace is unlikely to be daunting either, according to Professor Brennan. Nor does she feel that she will struggle with the transition to a new company - and a new country. "The reification of one person - the CEO - in business nowadays is arguably a bit over the top; it is just one person," she said. "It's a huge organisation, it has a very large number of staff already and all of those staff will be working the new CEO to bring the bank to as good a place as they possibly can. It's not just about one person - it's about a group of people working to do the best they can for the bank."
While Ms McDonagh has spent most of her life in London, Irish culture is unlikely to be particularly alien to her - given her familial connections to the country. "With a name like McDonagh it wouldn't come as a surprise that she has some Irish blood in her," Professor Brennan said. "Her paternal grandparents are from Ireland - one from Dublin and one from Galway - so she will not find the Irish culture as alien as some of the other places where she's worked," she added.
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*** German prosecutors have said that they are investigating the chief executive of Volkswagen in connection with the company's emissions cheating scandal. This is the first time he has been named in connection with the probe. Matthias Mueller became CEO after the scandal broke but had served as a board member of Porshe - which has also been implicated in the probe. Volkswagen had paid out billions of dollars in fines in the US after it was found to have fitted a device that lowered the emissions of some diesel cars. However the German investigation is not looking into the causes of the scandal itself, but at how the board of Porsche, including Mr Mueller, responded to it.