RBS finance chief in surprise exit ahead of British stake sale

Departing CFO casts doubt on reports UK government may sell some of stake in bank

Former investment banker Ewen Stevenson declined to say where he was going or exactly when at the bank’s AGM. Photograph: AFP

Royal Bank of Scotland’s finance chief quit unexpectedly on Wednesday and cast doubt on the timing of a possible sale of some of the British government’s controlling stake.

Former investment banker Ewen Stevenson declined to say where he was going or exactly when at the bank's agm.

"You'll know when there is news to tell," he told reporters at RBS's headquarters in Edinburgh, where the meeting was held, while RBS said a leaving date would be confirmed in due course.

Asked about reports the government could start selling down its more than 70 per cent RBS stake this week, Mr Stevenson said a sell-off in bank stocks sparked by nervousness over political developments in Italy and Spain made this unlikely.


“I’d be surprised if now was an optimal time to sell,” the 52-year-old New Zealander who became CFO in 2014, said.

Dismissed speculation

RBS was rescued in a £45.5 billion (€52 billion) bailout by the British government during the 2008 financial crisis and has spent the last decade shedding trillions of dollars of assets and dealing with the legal and regulatory hangover from an unfettered pre-2008 global expansion.

Mr Stevenson joined RBS in May 2014 after 25 years at Credit Suisse and has led turnaround efforts with the bank's chief executive Ross McEwan, who arrived six months earlier.

Mr McEwan, who has dismissed speculation about his own departure, told reporters at the agm he had only heard of Mr Stevenson’s plan to depart in the last 24 hours.

“I’m sad to lose Ewen, he’s done a fantastic job,” Mr McEwan, a fellow New Zealander said.

The bank’s shares, which have gained about 2.8 per cent since the bank’s full-year results in February, were down 1.4 per cent to 276p in afternoon trading.

– Reuters