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Honorary Citation by Professor Thia Hennessy for Dr Colin Hunt

27 Mar 2023
L-R: President of UCC, Professor John O'Halloran and Dr Colin Hunt

Chancellor, President, Colleagues, Graduates and Guests,

Colin Hunt already has the credentials of Doctor having been awarded a PhD in Economics by Trinity College Dublin in 2007 but today we in University College Cork are delighted to bestow Colin, CEO of AIB PLC, this further academic accolade of an Honorary Doctorate from our beloved and esteemed institution where Colin completed his BComm in 1991 and Masters in Economics Science in 1992.

Colin was born in Waterford city, tragically the day after his father died in an accident. A devastating start to life that I am sure has shaped Colin’s life choices and spurred him on to be the successful man he is today. His first visit to the beautiful UCC campus was at the age of nine to attend his eldest brother’s conferring. Colin says it was a foregone conclusion from that day that he would someday graduate from UCC, as he does today, for the third time!

Colin describes his time in UCC as transformational not least because it is where he met his wife Nuala, the beginning of their happy story that has bloomed with their three beautiful daughters, Grainne, Mealla and Esme, all of who are here today and I am sure are immensely proud.

Following an illustrious career in banking and finance Colin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of AIB Group PLC in March 2019 returning to helm of the organisation where he worked as a bank teller while a student in UCC.

While some may question the role of bankers in modern society, it was Larry Fink, Head of Blackrock a company with almost 10 trillon dollars under management, who said “finance has the power to shape society and to act as a catalyst for positive change” and Colin is a driving force for change, using his position of responsibility to drive two agendas.

First, and maybe because he lives in a house of women, Colin is committed to gender equality. Under his leadership and through concerted positive action, AIB became only the second bank in the world to create a gender-balanced executive committee.

Second, Colin has used his position to drive sustainability and to tackle climate change. As group CEO in late 2020, he set a target for green or climate-transition lending to account for 70 per cent all new lending within a decade. He has embedded a culture of sustainability in AIB. A measure of success is that AIB was recently included in the S&P Global Sustainability Yearbook, meaning it is within the top 15% of companies for sustainable practices.

If you get the chance to talk to Colin you will quickly appreciate that apart from gender equality and sustainability, his other great passion is for education which he describes as “the greatest force for transformation there is”. When once asked by a journalist what career he would have pursued if not banking, Colin replied education, a teacher or a lecturer.

It is no surprise then that Colin willing accepted the role to chair the Government’s national strategy for higher education at the request of Cork Minister Batt O Keeffee in 2011. The Hunt Report, as it became commonly referred to, stressed the broad economic, social and cultural advantages to widening participation in higher education. The Report predicted that demand for higher education would grow but would also bring serious operational and funding challenges, predictions that have come to fruition. The Hunt Report presented a series of recommendations on the need for investment in research and education.

Marrying his great passions of education and sustainability Colin has worked closely with UCC in recent years, in roles as Adjunct Professor and CEO in Residence. Under Colin’s leadership AIB has committed to a partnership with Cork University Business School to establish a professor of sustainable business and a lecturer of responsible management. A partnership that will help to develop the next generation of business leaders who will need to balance environmental, social and governance challenges while also leading economically sustainable organisations.

His own PhD research, his passion for sustainability, gender equality and education and his continued support for UCC over many decades is evidence of his commitment to the betterment of society as a whole.

Chancellor, because of his significant contribution to public life and private business, his vision and his tremendous business achievements, I am honoured and privileged to present to you Dr Colin Hunt for the award of Doctorate in Economics.

Praehonorabilis Cancellarie, totaque universitas!
Praesento vobis hunc meum filium, quam scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad Gradus Doctoratus in utroque Oeconomia , tam Civili quam Canonico, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae.


Bronnadh Céimeanna

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