AIB/Allfirst Structure, Treasury and Forex Trading

In this case study we will discuss the losses sustained by Allfirst Financial Inc. and Allfirst Bank in foreign exchange trading. The primary person responsible is john N. Rusnak.

In this first part we look at the relationship between AIB/Allfirst, treasury and foreign exchange trading.

The AIB/Allfirst relationship

Allfirst, formerly knows as First Maryland Bancorp, was partially acquired by AIB in 1983. By 1989, Maryland was merged into AIB as a wholly-owned subsidiary. It's name was changed to Allfirst in 1999.

AIB thus allowed Allfirst to have its own management team and board of directors (with minority representation from Dublin). However, AIB wanted more control in Allfirst's treasury operation. AIB believed that it had more sophisticated treasury operation and by having presence in this area, they will also be able to monitor Allfirst. This was done by sending David Cronin (a senior AIB executive) as treasurer into Allfirst's senior management.

Mr. David Cronin had vast experience in treasury operations, especially currency trading.

Initially, the new treasurer was not well received, but soon. things became more open and comfortable for the treasurer.

The treasurer reported to the CEO and at times the CFO. The treasurer also maintained strong tied with AIB in Ireland. He applied AIB's treasury policies in Allfirst, and also maintained relation with former colleagues with whom he discussed business issues.

AIB's senior management respected Mr. Cronin for his treasury expertise. Even though Allfirst’s senior management continued to believe in the treasurer’s competence, over time Allfirst’s management had increasing problems with his performance.

As a result due to this dual reporting, the Allfirst treasurer had less consistent and reliable supervision than would otherwise have taken place.

Structure of Allfirst's Treasury

Allfirst’s Treasury was divided into three “offices”: Treasury Funds Management; Asset and Liability Management and Risk Control; and Treasury Operations. Each office has been headed by a Senior Vice President who reports directly to the Allfirst treasurer.

Treasury Funds Management (Front office)

The front office has four functions: treasury funding; interest rate risk management; investment portfolio management; and global trading.

It is headed by Mr. Ray. Reporting to Mr. Ray in the global trading division are two managing directors. One of the two global trading managing directors is responsible for interest rate derivatives and supervises one other trader.

The other is Mr. Rusnak, who was responsible for foreign exchange trading. Mr. Rusnak was promoted to the managing director position in June 2001. Since that promotion, Mr. Rusnak had supervised another foreign exchange trader, one who joined Allfirst in 1986 and is currently the trader with primary responsibility for serving the currency needs of Allfirst’s corporate customers. This trader sat next to Mr. Rusnak on a very small trading floor.

Asset and Liability Management and Risk Control (Middle office)

The middle office has two vice presidents and an assistant vice president responsible for asset and liability management, a vice president in charge of financial analysis for the Treasury, and a risk control officer.

The risk control officer had responsibility for reporting on the traders’ compliance with Allfirst’s limits on value-at-risk, trading losses and counterparty credit.

Treasury Operations (Back Office)

Back Office is the division responsible for processing, confirming, settling and booking the trades executed by the bank’s foreign exchange and interest rate derivatives traders, including Mr. Rusnak’s trades. Treasury Operations also includes a portfolio operations function and a vice president in charge of systems and technology.

An important point here is that unlike many institutions, the same senior executive charged with ensuring profitable trading was also responsible for effective controls on that trading.