Financial News

  • 1 October 2013, 17:37

RBS Boss McEwan To Put Customers First

A New Zealander has taken on the toughest job in British banking today - chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Ross McEwan steps up to the main role after running the retail banking side of RBS for a year.

He replaces Stephen Hester who led the bank for five turbulent years following the departure of his disgraced predecessor Fred Goodwin and the lender's near collapse.

Mr McEwan will be paid 1m a year plus 350,000 in lieu of a pension.

As he began work today, he was conducting a series of meetings with staff and greeting customers - his priority on taking charge.

In a message to workers, Mr McEwan said: "It's clear to me that we have a greater obligation than any other bank to build a business that supports its customers.

"We were saved by the Government five years ago because of how important we are to the everyday economy of the UK.

"I want RBS to stand firmly behind its customers with the explicit goal of helping them succeed. That includes an increase in our lending. We must do everything possible to support the recovery and future growth of the UK."

He was welcomed to the role by RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton.

He said: "Ross is a customer banker through and through and is determined to transform the bank into a real asset for the UK economy."

Mr McEwan's appointment was announced after a reported rift between Mr Hester and the Chancellor George Osborne, said to be over the bank's future structure.

Mr Hester had taken over in November 2008 in the midst of a calamitous period which saw it rescued by the Government, which still holds an 80% stake.

Its collapse followed the disastrous 2007 takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro in a 49bn deal that weakened its capital position and left it highly vulnerable to the looming credit crunch.

Mr Hester was credited with turning the bank around amid tens of thousands of job cuts.

Non-core assets worth more than 200bn, including a chain of 900 pubs and an aircraft leasing business, were sold off.

RBS also began to sell off insurer Direct Line and last week it announced a 600m deal to hive off 314 bank branches under the revived Williams & Glyn's brand.

The turnaround plan helped the bank swing back out of the red with pre-tax profits of 1.4bn in its last half year.

But it has not been an easy path for the bank, which suffered a PR disaster following a series of IT failures which prevented customers managing their finances and prompted a big extra spend on compensation and system improvements.

Mr McEwan's appointment was confirmed in August amid Government revelations that RBS was still a long way from being returned to private hands.

He will be presiding over a bank that now has a greater focus on business lending as opposed to investment banking.

At the weekend, Mr McEwan welcomed the announcement that the Help-to-Buy scheme was being brought forward, as RBS announced that it would introduce a range of 95% loan-to-value mortgages under the scheme.

Before RBS, he was group executive for retail banking services at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

He is married with two children and his interests include waterskiing, cycling, reading and spending time with his family.