Belfast Telegraph

It's been a tough four years with unforeseen challenges

By John Mulgrew

"The last four years have been quite a journey, both for me personally and for our business."

It's hard to disagree with Jim Brown's sentiments after leaving his top Ulster Bank post following a turbulent four years at the helm.

He waded in from Hong Kong with the goal of turning around the ailing fortunes of one of Ireland's big four banks, following the financial collapse in 2008.

But what he certainly hadn't been expecting was an IT debacle which engulfed the news agenda for weeks - leaving tens of thousands of customers unable to access their cash.

It led to the Kiwi banker turning down his bonus in 2012.

But it was spurred on by pressure from politicians in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

And as for turning the bank's fortunes around, it finally returned to profit last year.

That return came after Ulster Bank saw its losses stretch to almost £1.5bn in 2013 - up 50% on the previous year.

Despite having to deal with a fistful of problems during his tenure, his public image was a well-oiled machine, including a grilling by Stormont's enterprise committee and Westminster's banking industry.

He's the latest senior member of the bank to move on to pastures new, following the departure of Ellvena Graham, who was head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

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