Former Bank of Ireland chief Francesca McDonagh hired to lead German-based funds servicer

UK-born banker found herself at the epicentre of Europe’s biggest banking crisis in more than a decade while at Credit Suisse

Former Bank of Ireland chief executive Francesca McDonagh, who handed in her notice at Credit Suisse last month after a year with the group, has been hired to lead German-based fund servicing group Universal Investment to drive its ongoing expansion.

Ms McDonagh will join Universal Investment, which has almost €1 trillion of assets under administration, on January 1st, according to the Frankfurt-headquartered group, which also has offices in Dublin and a number of other European cities.

The move will see Universal Investment chairman and interim chief executive David Blumer, who took on the top executive role in May after the sudden departure of then chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Reinhardt, continue as chairman.

“We are proud to have Francesca, one of the most well-known leaders in European banking, join us as Universal Investment Group’s new CEO,” said Mr Blumer.


“With her strong growth and execution track record as well as her client focus, Francesca is the ideal person to lead the next phase of the group’s growth and service evolution. I look forward to supporting her and the management team in driving further internationalisation as well as the ongoing development of our technological and operational capabilities.”

During her five years at Bank of Ireland, Ms McDonagh led the group through Brexit, the pandemic, an IT overhaul, dealing with the tracker mortgage scandal as well as the purchases of Davy and most of KBC Bank Ireland’s loan book. She was also instrumental in pushing the company towards being the first Irish bank to return fully to private ownership after the financial crash.

However, the London-born banker, who previously worked for HSBC, would find herself at the epicentre of Europe’s biggest banking crisis in more than a decade during her time at Credit Suisse.

Within weeks of joining the Swiss group, which had been the subject of a string of scandals in recent years, Ms McDonagh, as chief operating officer, was forced along with other top executives to battle social media-fuelled rumours that the group was facing a Lehman Brothers-type moment. She led the development and execution of a subsequent cost-restructuring plan.

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The group would be forced in March into a merger deal, engineered by Swiss authorities, with rival UBS, as it teetered on the brink of collapse amid massive outflows of customer funds.

It was a time of heightened nervousness in the banking sector, after the implosion of US regional lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

Ms McDonagh, who took out Irish citizenship during her time with Bank of Ireland between 2017 and 2022, was put in charge of the integration team at Credit Suisse as the two banking giants went about cementing their tie-up.

Credit Suisse chief executive Ulrich Koerner told staff in September, three months after the completion of the combination, that she was leaving the bank to “pursue a new opportunity”.

Universal Investment, which is majority owned by European private equity firm Montagu and which attracted fresh investment from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board last year, said that the incoming CEO “will focus on driving growth through geographical expansion and M&A and will support Universal Investment as it continues to strengthen its offering to existing and new clients”. M&A refers to mergers and acquisitions.

The group, which was founded in 1968, specialises in servicing funds and operating management companies for asset managers – or what are known as Super ManCo.

It entered the Irish market in 2021 with the purchase of Dublin-based fund servicing company Metzler Ireland Limited. It currently serves institutional investors and asset owners with more than 5,000 fund and structures with about €980 billion under management.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times