RBS chief executive Ross McEwan resigns from UK bank

Search for his replacement to commence immediately

Royal Bank of Scotland’s top banker said he is leaving the state-backed lender in a year’s time, in an expected move that potentially paves the way for a senior female executive to take his role.

The bank will commence a search to replace chief executive Ross McEwan immediately, according to a statement Thursday. Speculation has been rife on who may replace McEwan after RBS cleared a major US settlement last year. The 61-year-old New Zealander joined the UK bank in 2013. RBS owns Ulster Bank in Ireland.

"His successful execution of the strategy to refocus the bank back on its core markets here in the UK and Ireland has helped to deliver one of the biggest UK corporate turnarounds in history," chairman Howard Davies said in the statement. "RBS is now well positioned to succeed in the future in what is a rapidly evolving landscape for the banking sector."

RBS has been expected to undergo further generational change in the management suite before long, with Mr McEwan saying previously he intends to stay through the bank's 2020 plan. People with knowledge of the plan have said that his successor could be Alison Rose, a lifer at RBS and its predecessor firms, who now runs British commercial and private banking and has also been given additional responsibilities recently.

A new chief executive would push forward the strategy of slashing costs and finding growth, in a UK market which Mr McEwan has described as very competitive. Under Mr McEwan, RBS finally swung to profit in 2017, and has generated capital far greater than required by the regulators. It even announced special dividends for the first time in 10 years.

Before that, there were 10 years of losses as RBS was hit by the multitude of scandals that ensnared British and global banks – mis-sold payment-protection insurance, Libor and foreign-exchange index rigging – even before firms started settling with the DOJ on how they packaged and sold the mortgage-backed securities that fuelled the financial crisis. RBS, nationalised after being sunk by bad loans stemming from the disastrous takeover of ABN Amro, also incurred large expenses to restructure its investment bank, once one of the world's largest. – Bloomberg