Whoever takes over from Hester will have a tough task ahead of them, overseeing the 82% taxpayer-owned bank’s privatisation.
The government still isn’t completely sure how it wants to go about that: while a report from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has mooted breaking it up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ banks, the chancellor has historically been against that option. Others have come up with even more radical plans: the Archbishop of Canterbury favours breaking it up into a series of ‘regional’ banks.
According to Sky News, which has spoken to insiders, although chairman Sir Philip Hampton (who will, in all likelihoods, also have to be replaced in the not-too-distant-future) has not made up his mind yet, McEwan is the favourite, and could be announced as Hester’s replacement as soon as next week.
The New Zealander spent five years as the group chief executive for retail banking services at Commonwealth Bank of Australia before he joined RBS in September, and has spearheaded campaigns to improve customer service.
Sky reckons McEwan would get the support of Vince Cable and George Osborne, and is understood to have told Hampton he is ‘willing to commit’ to RBS for the long term: significant in that it was the reason cited for Hester’s departure. Although Hester has all but admitted he’d have preferred to stay – so good luck to McEwan if he does get it…