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Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

The Briefcase: Grilled bankers, Taylor Swift and Alibaba's treasure trove

This was the week in business.
Nov 14th 2014, 10:26 PM 11,084 2

IT’S HARD FOR the banks to win friends at the best of times – if they’re not getting grief over account fees or bureaucratic hurdles, then there’s the inevitable griping about loans.

Add to that mix the €64 billion-odd in taxpayer money that went to prop up their dodgy balance sheets and the thousands of homes being repossessed across Ireland, and it would be safe to say bankers are not the most popular well-paid executives on the island at present.

This week, there was little love for the big banks’ bosses as each in turn got a light grilling over the coals of the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

Here’s that and all the business news for the last few days, brought to you with a little help from a shedload of bailout cash:

Need to know

Things may be getting better for banks, but don’t expect a cheaper mortgage

Ireland’s banks were front and centre in the business news agenda over the past week, beginning with the release of AIB’s latest financial results on Monday.

It revealed fewer of its mortgage customers were in arrears and that the bank was finally turning a profit after ringing up massive losses in previous years.

Later in the week, as he took his turn in front of the finance committee, AIB boss David Duffy pledged to return all €21 billion his bank took from the public purse to stay afloat… although expect to wait about a decade to get it back.

David Duffy - CEO AIB. Pictured CEO of Keeping dry David? Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Things were a bit more rocky over at Ulster Bank, whose parent company the Royal Bank of Scotland was slapped with about €500 million in fines by US and UK regulators for its part in rigging foreign exchange markets.

The same day, the Ulster Bank operation was handed its own €3.5 million penalty over the 2012 IT bungle that left customers unable to access accounts, pay bills or get their wages.

That was on top of the €59 million the company already had to pay in compensation for its screw-up.

Then the bank’s officials, headed by New Zealand-born Jim Brown, got accused of “screwing” its customers in the Republic of Ireland by charging them higher interest rates than those across the border in the north.

But Brown still got in the opportunity to have a dig at the Central Bank’s proposed new lending rules, designed to stop a repeat of the property bubble that sent the banks to the exchequer cap-in-hand in the first place.

Ulster Bank - CEO Jim Brown. Pictured Not sharing that umbrella, we see Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

He said over two-thirds of the bank’s first home buyers from this year wouldn’t have met the new 20% minimum deposit requirement.

At Permanent TSB, they were forecasting an earlier return to profit than expected – sometime around “the back end of 2016″ – but the bank wouldn’t budge for now on the higher mortgage rates it was charging compared to many competitors.

Meanwhile, global banking watchdog the Financial Stability Board was busy hatching a plan to stop 30 global “pillar” banks from ever having to be bailed out again.

In theory, that would stop the kind of financial domino effect which sent the Irish banks running to the exchequer in the first place.

Still, we all know the problem with theories.

One Animated GIF Source: Giphy

Nice to know

  • Ireland’s biggest hotel operator wants to buy yet more hotels. The Dalata Group is looking to add 10 properties from the smaller Moran & Bewley’s Hotel Group to its fast-growing portfolio – for the cool sum of about €450 million. At the cheaper, but no less impressive end of the spectrum, the Waterford Castle Hotel is on the market for about €4.5 million – although the superstitious should be wary, it’s reportedly haunted
  • Spotify hit back at Taylor Swift after the mega-selling singer pulled her entire collection from the music streaming service over complaints that artists were getting paid little for their work. The company claimed she was on track to make €4.8 million a year from its services, although her management said the figure was more like €400,000

Spotify boss hits back at Swift Source: Dennis Van Tine/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Now you know

Clinton Global Initiative Source: Mark Lennihan/AP/Press Association Images

One for the road

You probably haven’t heard of Risual, an IT company based in a business park in Staffordshire, UK.

They do techhy stuff to do with Microsoft, but unless you’re mad into Microsoft Stack (is anyone mad into Microsoft?) then who cares, eh?

Well, this week the firm managed to produce one of the all-time-great corporate videos, which included tongue-in-cheek gems like this: ”Richard is the director and co-founder, one of the pioneers behind the discovery that you can improve the word “visual” by putting an “r” in front of it”.

Get ready to be all innovative and dynamic…

Source: RisualLimited/YouTube

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Peter Bodkin

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