Ulster Bank strategy was ‘seriously flawed’

Former Ulster Bank chief executive Cormac McCarthy arriving at Leinster House, Dublin, to attend the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry
Former Ulster Bank chief executive Cormac McCarthy arriving at Leinster House, Dublin, to attend the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

Cormac McCarthy, the former chief executive of Ulster Bank, admitted he made big mistakes during the boom, in an attempt to become a major competitor with Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks.

“In aiming to become a genuine third force in Irish banking, Ulster Bank lent too much money to too many people on the basis of assumptions which turned out to be seriously flawed,” he admitted to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry in Dublin.

The results for the bank and many of the people it lent to were catastrophic.

“I greatly regret the decisions I made while chief executive of Ulster Bank have had the impact they have had on so many lives,” he said.

But he denied the lender took a cavalier or reckless approach to banking.

All the economic indicators from 2003 to 2007 were positive, and the bank had forged an “ill-judged and mistaken strategy” based on the upbeat forecasts, he told the hearing.

“I deeply regret that this happened while I was chief executive of Ulster Bank,” he added.

Mr McCarthy said “hand on heart” he made all his decisions in good faith, based on the best information he had at the time.

“I never anticipated the circumstances that transpired in 2008 and beyond and I was mistaken not to have done so,” he said.