Retail bank chief quits as Abbey National reorganises

By Rachel Stevenson
Friday 29 November 2002 01:00

Abbey National's head of retail banking, Andrew Pople, yesterday announced his resignation from the group, a day after the bank revealed it is heading for its first loss since demutualising 13 years ago.

Mr Pople, 45, was Abbey's longest serving board director, having been part of the Abbey National group for 14 years and head of its retail banking division for the past six years.

He said he was now ready to "seek a fresh direction outside the group" and left before the next round of upheaval in the organisation takes hold. He will leave with a year's salary, plus a bonus and pension, which last year amounted to a package of £577,000.

Analysts believe he may not be the last to leave the boardroom as Abbey's new chief executive, Luqman Arnold, gets to grips with stripping the company back to its core essentials.

The retail banking division will be at the heart of the new business, as it seeks to put its focus back on mortgages, current accounts, credit cards and savings.

The group's dabbling in wholesale banking was the cause of its undoing. It was a lender to WorldCom and Enron, and has already had to write off £252m in its wholesale banking division, with estimates of £750m more to come.

The problems were first revealed in July and were the catalyst to the ousting of the former chief executive, Ian Harley, whom the City blamed for letting Abbey lose its way from its traditional mortgage and current account business.

In February Abbey is expected to unveil how it will implement its strategy to get back its position in the high street as a retail financial services provider. All management positions are currently under review.

Until Mr Arnold has finalised the details of how he wants to restructure the organisation and its management, Mr Pople's deputy, John Berry, will take over running operations.

Mr Arnold said that although he had worked with Mr Pople only a short time, he was "very sorry he will not be part of the new organisation going forward".

Shares in Abbey, which have fallen by a third this year, closed 25p lower at 642.5p.

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