RBS set to name Kiwi Ross McEwan as chief executive

The 56-year-old's appointment would see a shift in focus towards retail banking and away from riskier investments
  • @adamwithnall

RBS is set to appoint New Zealander Ross McEwan as its new chief executive, as the bailed-out bank held late-stage talks with Bank of England regulators who must approve the decision.

The 56-year-old has been head of retail banking at RBS since last summer, and many regarded him as a clear frontrunner to replace controversially ousted Stephen Hester, in a move that would mark a shift in focus away from investment banking.

The appointment is expected either today, following rival Lloyds announcing a return to profit, or tomorrow, to coincide with RBS posting its own half-year financial results.

Though Mr McEwan has the distinct advantages of being both an insider and a high street expert, he has only been in banking for around 10 years and has never held the top position at a company of RBS’s size before - a factor thought to concern the BoE’s Prudential Regulation Authority.

But otherwise the former retail banking head at Commonwealth Bank of Australia is thought to be a safe, politically acceptable choice likely to be well-suited to working with the Treasury to move away from the 81 per cent state-owned institution’s more risky ventures.

The Financial Times reported that RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton had run an international search for Mr Hester's replacement, but shifted the focus back to internal succession after Mark McCombe, of the BlackRock investment company, dropped out of the race.

RBS finance director Bruce van Saun has been earmarked as a potential backup candidate.

And the decision to go in-house for a chief executive will mitigate some concerns about the taxpayer money that might have been spent on new salaries, bonuses and buy-outs.

Before he went into banking, Mr McEwan worked in life insurance, holding a senior role at the stockbroking outfit First NZ Capital Securities.

He is married with two grown-up children, and says he enjoys water skiing, cycling, reading and spending time with his family.