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Mallon faces a tough task at National Irish

By David Elliott

Stability in the banking sector is something which was frowned upon five years ago, prayed for three years ago and is steadily becoming the new norm.

In fact, by managing to cut impairment charges, turn an operating profit and end up with a pre-tax loss figure which is big but only half as big as the same time last year, Northern Bank has actually performed well - a phrase which isn't bandied about the financial industry much these days.

Of course, this being the banking sector there are a few ups and downs, not least the fact that sister bank, National Irish, is still struggling but that's balanced by a strong performance by parent Danske.

From next month the Danish parent will give its name to an amalgamation of the two sisters and that means a fairly interesting task for Northern Bank's current chief executive Gerry Mallon.

He'll take over at the top of the newly formed, all-island subsidiary of Danske Bank and there's no doubt that the top bods in Copenhagen will be hoping he can help turn National Irish around.

Northern Bank is far from being back to full health but it has shown progress and Mr Mallon will take that positive into his new role and hopefully replicate it.

National Irish has hardly managed to make a dent in its impairments and even made an operating loss in the nine months to the end of September, highlighting the challenge that lies ahead.

Granted the latter relates mostly to restructuring costs but still, Mr Mallon will have an unenviable task.

Meanwhile, the rest of the banking world is firmly veering away from the risky side of the industry as the latest news from the national bank of a country considered one of the most conservative, Switzerland, shows.

UBS's decision to cull 10,000 in its investment banking division is a sign of the desire by banks these days to keep their exposure to risky investments to a minimum.

Conservative banking, once seen as the route to shareholder revolt, is the new norm.

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