Female executive to head up Ulster Bank
Ulster Bank has named a female executive as its new head in Northern Ireland, cementing her position as the most powerful woman in Irish banking.
Northern Ireland native Ellvena Graham, who has worked for the bank for 30 years, will report to all-Ireland chief executive Jim Brown.
It is understood that 2012's customer service crisis, when an IT glitch prevented tens of thousands of Ulster Bank customers from accessing their accounts, ultimately costing the bank £82m and led it to appoint an easily identifiable Northern Ireland chief.
Mr Brown said: "Recognising the significance of Northern Ireland to the bank's identity, Ellvena will lead engagement across Northern Ireland targeting all key stakeholders."
Ms Graham's new post comes at a tough time for the sector as banks close branches and continue to struggle with the legacy of the downturn. Ulster Bank suffered an operating loss of £1bn in 2012, up from £984m in 2011.
Damian Farrell, head of banking and financial recruitment at Abacus Recruitment, said: "Knowing Ulster Bank's thorough recruitment processes Ms Graham must have been the best person for the job and have competed against a high-calibre short-list of suitably experienced candidates from across the globe."
He said the appointment of a woman to a senior position in a bank was "becoming less unusual". "It reflects very well upon both Ulster Bank's desire to promote the best person and indeed Ms Graham's candidature and the belief senior staff have in her ability to lead the bank through the toughest period in its recent history," he said.
Linda Brown, divisional director at the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, welcomed Ms Graham's new post.
"Currently 25% of our members are female, but we would obviously like to see more women applying for and filling director positions across all sectors of the economy," she said.
Joanne McAuley of recruitment firm Clarendon Executive described Ms Graham as "a very strong ambassador for female business leaders and Northern Ireland in general".
The Methodist College past pupil has worked in Ulster Bank since leaving school, progressing to senior roles in Belfast, the Isle of Man and Dublin.
She was also head of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations for the wider Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group.