Ross McEwan set to be confirmed as RBS boss

Britain's "other" state-backed lender, Royal Bank of Scotland, could have a new chief executive in place as soon as today. Talks are under way with regulators to secure approval for the promotion of its head of retail banking, Ross McEwan. He joined RBS, which is 81 per cent owned by the Government, last year.

The New Zealander is a relative unknown and was initially rated as a 25-1 outsider by Ladbrokes when the bookmaker created a market on the bank's replacement for the "retiring" Stephen Hester.

However, Mr McEwan has received a positive reception among analysts. That resulted in a number of shrewd City gamblers placing bets and forcing the bookie to slash the odds to 10-1 and then 8-1 to avoid a nasty hit before he assumed general favour at the end of last month.

The appointment of an insider may head off a row over pay, as external hirings rule themselves out and leave the way clear for Mr McEwan. RBS stumped up £3m to buy out the share awards he would have been due had he stayed with his previous employer. He missed out on the top job at Commonwealth Bank of Australia before being headhunted by RBS. He is said to have tried to visit at least five branches a week, including those trading as NatWest, which falls under his remit.

Politically the appointment of a retail banker, a stark contrast to Mr Hester who was an investment banker and restructuring guru, will be seen as politically savvy.

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