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Bank of Ireland is turning over a new leaf, its recently appointed CEO told CNBC from Dublin on Monday.
The Irish commercial lender, one of Ireland's traditional "big four" banks, has proposed its first dividend in a decade, marking a turning point for the previously troubled bank following the financial recovery Ireland has seen over the past few years.
"It's first time in 10 years that Bank of Ireland is proposing a dividend — that's a pivotal moment for us," the bank's CEO, Francesca McDonagh, told CNBC. Previously at HSBC, McDonagh was appointed to the position last October.
The bank said it has proposed a dividend of 11.5 cents per share and called it "a significant milestone" that reflects the progress it has made since the financial crisis.
Ireland and its economy have moved from basket case to poster boy for austerity, since its bailout by international lenders. The bank, which received a 7 billion euro bailout in 2009, posted a profit before tax of 852 million euros ($1.05 billion) for 2017, lower than the year before due to a 170 million euro charge related to the overcharging of mortgage customers.
The bank's reputation was most recently tarnished after it came under severe criticism for mis-selling mortgages to tens of thousands of Irish customers in previous years. Observers agree there was a significant trust deficit between the bank and the Irish public, making McDonagh's job all the more crucial.
Today, the earnings announcement represents "the confirmation of Bank of Ireland as the largest lender to the Irish economy," McDonagh said, describing particular contributions to business banking in the country's agricultural sector, as well as in mortgages and a re-entry into the mortgage broker market.
A final key reason Monday's announcement is important, the CEO said, is "one of transformation."
"We're transforming the Bank of Ireland," McDonagh went on. "Previously, before my time, there was a plan to invest in our core banking platform, in our systems ... I believe it's the right strategy, and I am absolutely committed to that program. So I feel that the Bank of Ireland is going to look very different this time next year and more different beyond that."