Ulster Bank confirms Jane Howard appointment as new chief

Ms Howard joins Ulster Bank from UK parent RBS and will replace Gerry Mallon

Incoming Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard, who is due to take up  the role next month.

Incoming Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard, who is due to take up the role next month.

 

Ulster Bank confirmed on Monday that Jane Howard, a senior executive with the bank’s UK parent Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), will become the bank’s new chief executive, taking on the role next month at a time of reignited speculation over the future of the Irish operation.

The appointment, which has been known for some time but was understood to be going through regulatory approval with the Central Bank and European Central Bank, means that two of the five remaining mainstream retail banks in Ireland will now have a female chief executive, as Ms Howard joins Francesca McDonagh at Bank of Ireland.

Ms Howard, managing director of personal banking at RBS in the UK for the past two years, has worked in financial services for 37 years and at executive level for 14 years across customer-facing and risk-management roles. During her time at RBS, Ms Howard led the charge towards digital banking, and became known as the “mastermind” behind the axing of hundreds of Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest branches.

Ms Howard assumes the role from Gerry Mallon, who left the bank earlier this year to become chief executive of Tesco Bank in the UK. Chief financial officer Paul Stanley, who had taken on the role of interim chief executive in Mr Mallon’s absence, is to become deputy chief executive in September, where he will have a “critical role in the delivery of our business objectives”, Ulster Bank chairman Des O’Shea said.

Merger speculation

A change at the helm comes at a time of change at the top at RBS in the UK and as the European Central Bank’s banking supervisory board chair, Danièle Nouy, reportedly rekindled speculation that Ulster Bank could become involved in merger activity.

RBS said on Friday that its chief financial officer, Ewen Stevenson, would be replaced at the end of next month by his deputy, Katie Murray, on an interim basis. The Financial Times has reported that Alison Rose, RBS’s head of commercial and private banking, is the internal favourite to success group chief executive, Ross McEwan, who is said to be preparing to step down as early as next year.

Meanwhile, it was reported earlier this month that Ms Nouy suggested to Department of Finance officials when in Ireland in April that a merger between Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB should be explored as a way of improving the strength of the country’s financial system.

Such a tie-up had previously been weighed and discounted under options considered in 2014 as RBS carried out a strategic review of Ulster Bank. The UK government-controlled group decided at the time to remain in Ireland as Ulster Bank had just returned to profitability for the first time since 2008.

RBS said earlier this month that Ulster Bank posted a €100 million profit for the first half of this year, up from €12 million for the corresponding period in 2017.

Ulster Bank has shrunk the size of its loan book from almost €47 billion of advances to customers in the Republic in 2008 to the equivalent of €21.3 billion at the end of June, mainly through the sale of billions of euro of distressed commercial property debt following the property crash. The bank said last week that it had agreed to sell a further €1.4 billion of distressed Irish mortgages to US investment giant Cerberus Capital.