Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns Ulster Bank, is searching for a new chief executive. Ross McEwan has resigned, signalling a fresh start for the bank as it heads for full private ownership, after a state bailout.
New Zealand-born Mr McEwan, who has led RBS since October 2013, has a 12-month notice period and will remain in his position until a successor has been appointed and until an orderly handover has taken place, the bank said on Thursday.
It is the second change in RBS’s senior executive team in fewer than six months, following the appointment of Katie Murray as chief financial officer, last December. The date of Mr McEwan’s departure will be confirmed in due course and Alison Rose, the bank’s CEO of commercial and private banking, is one of the favourites to succeed him.
Ms Rose, who also serves as deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings, has worked for the lender for more than 20 years and is responsible for RBS’s Coutts private banking brand. Her accession would make RBS the first bank in Britain to have two women in its most senior positions.
There had been speculation about Mr McEwan’s future since finance chief and fellow New Zealander, Ewen Stevenson, announced he was leaving, last May.
Some analysts suggested the CEO’s departure might not be ideal timing for the bank, just months before Brexit and with dark clouds looming over the UK housing market.
RBS is due to report its first-quarter results later today, where attentions will turn to the resilience of its small- and medium-sized business borrowers in the face of Britain’s lengthy exit process from the EU.
While broadly liked and respected among RBS’s institutional investors, Mr McEwan’s tenure has not been without drama.
Despite being one of the lowest in Britain’s banking sector, salary and bonus payments earned by the 61-year old have attracted considerable scrutiny, particularly in the years before RBS returned to profit.
Mr McEwan’s total pay was £3.58m (€4.1m) in 2018, 97 times the pay of the bank’s median employee and 143 times its lowest-paid staff.
Under his watch, the bank also shelled out $4.9bn (€4.4bn) to settle its largest-ever regulatory penalty for misselling of high-risk mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2008.