RBS CEO McEwan to lead National Australia Bank

Ross McEwan

UPDATE 4 — National Australia Bank (NAB) announced on Friday the appointment of outgoing Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Ross McEwan as NAB’s group chief executive officer and managing director.

NAB said McEwan had led RBS “through significant change and recovery.”

McEwan, 62, announced on April 25, 2019, that he was stepping down as CEO of RBS.

McEwan took over at RBS in October 2013 and eventually returned it to profit and begun paying shareholders, including the UK government, a dividend. 

RBS however is still 62% owned by the UK taxpayer following its bailout during the last financial crisis — and its share price is down roughly 33% since McEwan took charge.

McEwan has faced criticism in his time at RBS. 

Some analysts raised questions over the timing of McEwan’s planned departure months before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.

RBS is still trying to repair its image after a number of scandals including the alleged mistreatment of troubled business borrowers by its nororious Global Restructuring Group.

RBS said on Friday McEwan has a 12 month notice period at RBS extending to April 2020 and “he will remain in position until a successor has been appointed and an orderly handover has taken place.”

McEwan told reporters he was approached by NAB soon after he resigned from RBS.

Alison Rose, who runs RBS’s commercial arm, is viewed as one of the favourites to succeed McEwan.

NAB chairman-elect Philip Chronican said NAB had secured a “senior, global financial services executive with deep experience in international markets and long-standing knowledge of the Australian banking environment.”

New Zealand-born McEwan is a former Australian banking industry executive who has been CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland since 2013.

The appointment is subject to regulatory approvals.

“Ross McEwan is the ideal leader for NAB as we seek to transform our operations and culture firmly around leading customer service, experience and products,” said Chronican.

“Ross brings a compelling range of experience across finance, insurance and investment with a track record of delivering important and practical improvements for customers.

“RBS has been through many of the same challenges which NAB now faces around culture, trust and reputation.

“We have secured a well proven CEO and reached agreement on an appropriate remuneration package when compared with domestic and international peers and other sectors.”

McEwan joined RBS as CEO UK Retail in 2012 from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), where he had been group executive for retail banking services for five years.

He had previously been CBA’s executive general manager with responsibility for its branch network, contact centres and third-party mortgage brokers.

McEwan said: “It is a privilege to return to Australia and lead NAB at a crucial time for the bank, its customers, employees, shareholders and the broader community.

“There are a number of areas where NAB can extend its lead, such as business banking, agriculture and health, and other areas where I believe we should consistently lead such as customer service.

“We must also meet and exceed the expectations of our many stakeholders.

“It is essential that I protect and accelerate the bank’s transformation program.

“The community also expects a higher level of accountability and transparency from the banking industry.

“Australians deserve NAB to be a world class service provider.”

Morningstar banking analyst David Ellis said: “It’s going to be a tough job …

“He’s facing a very hostile environment and a soft economy.”

RBS chairman Howard Davies said: “We note today’s announcement that Ross will take over as CEO of National Australia Bank and congratulate him on this appointment.

“The search for a successor remains ongoing and the effective date of Ross’ departure will be confirmed in due course.”