* McDonagh is HSBC head of retail banking, UK and Europe
* Current CEO Boucher announced plans to retire in March
* Bank benefiting from Irish economy, exposed to Brexit (Adds details)
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, May 17 (Reuters) - Bank of Ireland has appointed HSBC Holdings Plc executive Francesca McDonagh as its new chief executive officer to succeed Richie Boucher, who will retire on Oct. 2.
Boucher announced in March he would retire before the end of the year after almost a decade in charge of the bank he guided from the brink of nationalisation to lead a revival across the sector.
McDonagh, 42, will become the first female CEO of the 234-year-old lender.
"I am very pleased we have been successful in attracting a person of the calibre and experience of Francesca. She has been with HSBC for 20 years, during which time she has held a number of senior leadership roles across seven different countries," Bank of Ireland chairman Archie Kane said in a statement.
McDonagh is currently the head of retail banking and wealth management, UK and Europe, for Europe's biggest bank where she is responsible for all aspects of retail customer service, channels and products, Bank of Ireland said.
The British banker, who Bank of Ireland said has Irish grandparents, has also served as deputy chair of the British Bankers Association trade body.
Other contenders for the role included Bank of Ireland chief financial officer Andrew Keating and retail head Liam McLoughlin, a source familiar with the process told Reuters.
McDonagh takes over Ireland's largest lender by assets three years after it returned to profitability, benefiting from a rebound in Europe's fastest growing economy that enabled the 14-percent state-owned bank to return a profit on its rescue funds.
However, earlier this year it delayed plans to pay its first dividend in a decade until the first half of 2018 as it awaited further clarity on Britain's vote to leave the European Union. It is the most exposed Irish lender to the neighbouring market.
The bank has also embarked on a major four-year technology investment that Boucher said he would leave to someone else.
Boucher, who joined the bank in 2003, headed its corporate banking and retail divisions during Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" years before being appointed CEO in February 2009, shortly after the bank, like all other Irish lenders, sought a state bailout.
Under the matter-of-fact, Zambian-born banker, the bank became the only domestically owned lender to stay out of state control when it managed to attract private investment at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2011.
"Richie has been an outstanding success at Bank of Ireland, and leaves the bank in a much stronger position than he inherited," Kane said. (Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)