In conversation with Brian Hayes has been saved
In conversation with Brian Hayes
CEO of Banking and Payments Federation Ireland.
In May 2019, the former Fine Gael MEP took the helm of Banking & Payments Federation Ireland. Here, he outlines his vision for the role and ambitions for the Irish financial services sector.
This is an extract from the interview for FinSight magazine, full interview is available here.
What made you decide to leave politics to take up the position of CEO at BPFI?
Three reasons: firstly I turned 50 in August and I said I’d be out of politics by the age of 50. Secondly, I’ve been involved in financial services at a public policy level for the past ten years. I spent four years in the department of finance as minister of state and spent a lot of that period in ECOFIN Eurogroup council meetings and I got quite interested in the whole EU decision making process around financial services post-crash. And when I went on the ECON committee, that’s really what I did in parliament for the last eight years.
The bank came to me a year and a half ago and asked would I be interested in this role. Why am I doing it? It’s a big challenge. Everyone knows the legacy of the banks and the way that they are inextricably connected with Ireland’s collapse at the time. They needed a strong personality to be a front of house spokesperson for the industry and try to get their side of the story across in a difficult environment in terms of media and PR.
And the third reason was personal reasons: my family lived with me for five years in Brussels and then went home, and I didn’t want to be living out of a suitcase three nights a week with adolescent kids. So really it was age, the challenge, and then personal reasons with the kids.
What are your ambitions for the new role and what key achievements are you working towards?
We’ve just gone through a very rigorous three-year plan process where we’ve had to internally look with our board members and all stakeholders at the future of the organisation, the role it plays for the domestic banks and the international banks and payment services companies to make sure we’ve the right offering.
My vision, really, is that our predominant position as the voice of banking, payments and fintech in Ireland will be recognised. We will have played a key role in helping to restore credibility to the industry. And also that the BPFI will be an engine for the future of the industry; working hard with our members, with stakeholders in seeing a really strong strategic development of the business within the industry. I think we’re recognised as a very strong voice within the financial services sector at home and abroad, but I think the area we need to be much clearer on, is what we can do to help and drive collaboration within the industry into the future. I believe passionately in that. I think Ireland’s too small and the sector is too small. We have to work together as banks and payment provider companies in a totally transformed digital world. That is a big part of my business plan for the BPFI into the future.
What do you see as the biggest issue confronting Ireland’s financial services industry right now?
I think the biggest issue for the sector is one of credibility. We have a very strong offering; we’re not a Frankfurt or Paris or London, but we certainly are [at the level of] an Amsterdam or a Luxembourg, and we’ve got to continue to advocate strongly for our position within the European Union as a sector. And that means we’ve got to regulate in a proportionate and risk-free way. We’ve got to mark ourselves against other similarly sized countries in terms of how we are doing on a regulatory and supervisory level.
One of the biggest inherent problems for the banking sector in Ireland is the huge amount of trapped capital that exists within Irish banks. It’s really absurd, when you consider that for every €1,000 we lend in Ireland, we’ve got to keep €50 in reserve for capital. Across similar pillar banks in the EU, it’s €15, so that trapped capital, as a consequence of the model that the SSM has, makes it difficult for Irish banks to really compete with other banks.
And I think we need to get, over a period of time, to a level playing field with other similarly sized peers, across other similarly sized EU countries. I think that would help the position of the banks; it would help credit formation in Ireland which is still quite dull as a consequence of the crash. People are holding on to cash, they’re not seeing new credit formation taking out new debt. Despite the improvement, it’s nowhere near where one would expect given the scale of upturn in the economy in the last number of years. I think some of that is around the amount of capital the banks have to hold in Ireland.