Anthony Hilton: Bean-counters' retirement plans highlight problem facing bank boardrooms

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The Independent Online

Three people I met this week who work in the upper echelons of Big Four accounting firms said they intended to retire soon and thereafter find a role as a non-executive director somewhere. They don't much mind what kind of business – provided it is not a bank.

It underlines the challenge facing Royal Bank of Scotland. The bank has of course just appointed a new chief executive to replace Stephen Hester. But once Ross McEwan is settled in, it will have to think about finding a replacement for Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman. Given the attitude of those mentioned above to serving on bank boards, it will be no easy task.

It is significant that Lloyds, which is in much better shape than RBS, is still looking for a chairman to replace Sir Win Bischoff, who goes by next May. The search is being led by Tony Watson, the senior independent director. Though notable as one of the City's nice guys, even he has not been overwhelmed by top quality candidates.

Sir Philip has not announced that he plans to leave just yet, but the next big challenge for the chairman will be to lead the selling off of the Government's 80 per cent holding. Investors look for continuity in management and respected though Sir Philip is, having done five years he is unlikely to serve another five. But the sale will need to be handled by someone the City believes will stick around. That strongly suggests that next year RBS will also be looking for a new chair.