HBOS reshuffle puts Hornby in succession frame

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The Independent Online

A board reshuffle at HBOS has catapulted the bank's head of retail Andy Hornby into the chief operating officer role, prompting speculation that he is being lined up as an eventual successor to the chief executive James Crosby.

A board reshuffle at HBOS has catapulted the bank's head of retail Andy Hornby into the chief operating officer role, prompting speculation that he is being lined up as an eventual successor to the chief executive James Crosby.

Mr Hornby will assume his new role on 1 July. In addition to his retail banking responsibilities, he will take on the running of the UK insurance and investment businesses.

HBOS, formed by the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland, hired Mr Hornby from the supermarket chain Asda in 1999. His arrival marked a key turning point for the Halifax retail division. Mr Hornby has boosted its profits by 70 per cent over the past three years by simplifying product ranges and marketing them aggressively, Mr Crosby said yesterday.

The bank offered Mr Hornby a share package worth more than £2.2m two years ago to prevent him from leaving to take the top job at Boots.

Mr Crosby said the 38-year-old had "brought an awful lot to the group". He said: "There's a much greater clarity and passion in the organisation than there was some years ago. The people at the front line are much stronger advocates of our products and services." The chief executive added that Mr Hornby "is managing the business very tightly as a retailer would".

Some analysts said Mr Hornby's promotion suggested that he was in line to take over from Mr Crosby whenever he decides to go. Mr Crosby said: "There is no vacancy. I'm 49 and it's a great place to be."

HBOS also announced that its veteran head of corporate banking, George Mitchell, who is the governor and treasurer of the Bank of Scotland, would be retiring at the end of the year. He said: "I joined the bank as a 16-year-old. After 40 years I am ready to move on to new things." He added that he had not yet decided what.

Mr Mitchell will be replaced by Peter Cummings, currently the managing director of the corporate bank. He will become deputy chief executive of the division on 1 July and join the HBOS board next January. The chairman Dennis Stevenson will stay on for another three years.

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