There’s been much speculation about the circumstances surrounding Horta-Osorio’s absence, but Lloyds insists he’ll be back soon. In the meantime, his (rather substantial) shoes are being filled by financial director Tim Tookey. In fact, it’s Tookey’s job that may have caused Lloyds its biggest problem: Tookey’s due to step down from Lloyds at the beginning of 2012 to become FD at insurance firm Friends Provident. And apparently, Bostock had applied for Tookey’s job. But chairman Sir Win Bischoff, who had clearly hoped Bostock would follow on from his sale of £125bn of RBS’ non-core assets by helping to sell off Lloyds’ Irish and Australian businesses, offered it to someone else.
RBS has, naturally, responded rather smugly. ‘After careful consideration of his position, Nathan has decided to remain in his current role as chief risk officer,’ it said, thumbing its nose as it went. It does rather suggest Bostock is heir apparenty to current RBS CEO Stephen Hester, who has promised to stay out his ‘five-year plan’ to get the bank, which is 67% owned by the Government, back into private ownership.
Still, this leaves Lloyds in a deeply dodgy position, sans CEO, CFO and anyone to head up its wholesale division. It’s a situation that will open Lloyds’ succession plans to scrutiny: arguably, if the bank had done a bit more to encourage succession from within, the Bostock situation would never have materialised. What’s for sure is that investors have been spooked, badly: shares fell by almost 6% this morning, to 23.73p.
So here’s hoping that when Bischoff says Horta-Osorio is making ‘good progress’ and will ‘return at the end of the year’, he’s not exaggerating. In the wider context of the economy, the return of the CEO, who is seen as a safe pair of hands, can’t come soon enough.