Surprise as Higgins retires from Tesco Bank

Benny Higgins

Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank sprung a surprise on Tuesday when it announced that its CEO Benny Higgins would retire from Tesco in February 2018.

Higgins joined Tesco Bank as CEO during its move to full Tesco ownership in 2008 and was also appointed group strategy director in 2014.

Tesco Bank was originally established in 1997 as a joint venture with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The colourful Higgins was formerly a leading executive at RBS, HBOS and Standard Life.

Tesco Bank has undergone significant expansion in the past nine years and now employs 4,000 across three sites in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said: “Benny has steered Tesco Bank to the strong position it is in today.

“The strong growth in customers, deposits and lending is down to his leadership.

“It has been a pleasure having him on the leadership team, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Higgins said: “As Tesco Bank celebrates its 20 year anniversary, I want to take time to recognise the achievements of colleagues in serving our six million customers.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved together and it has been a privilege to work in Tesco Bank and across Tesco for what will have been ten years.”

During Higgins’ tenure, Tesco Bank increased its customer account numbers from 5.8 million to 8 million, grew customer deposits £5.2 billion to more than £8.5 billion, and grew customer lending £6.1 billion to  more than £10 billion.

However, Higgins’ tenure at Tesco Bank has not been without incident.

Higgins received criticism for the size of his expenses account during his reign as CEO.

And last November, Higgins confirmed that some Tesco Bank customers’ current accounts had been “subject to online criminal activity, in some cases resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently.”

Tesco Bank said in November that 9,000 customers had been affected by fraudulent transactions that hit the bank and that all customers affected had been fully reimbursed.

The total cost of refunding the customers was estimated then to be about £2.5 million.

In May this year it was announced that Higgins would succeed Ben Thomson as the new chair of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) board.

The appointment is part time and non-remunerated with a time commitment of three to four days a month.

Higgins began his career at Standard Life in 1983 when he joined the firm as an actuarial student and he became a member of the Standard Life group executive in 1996.

In 1997, he moved to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to become its chief executive of retail banking, during which time he led the integration of NatWest retail banking.

Higgins became CEO of the retail business of HBOS plc in 2006, before joining Tesco Bank as chief executive in 2008.

Higgins holds a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics from the University of Glasgow and became a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries in 1986.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland, a member of the Scottish Government Financial Services Advisory Board (FiSAB) and a member of the Financial Capability Board.

He is also a non-executive director of the Buccleuch Estates, a trustee of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit and a Prince’s Trust Ambassador.