NatWest-RBS searches for chair as Davies plans exit

NatWest Group chair Howard Davies told the company’s AGM at its Gogarburn, Edinburgh, HQ on Tuesday that he will step down by July 2024 at the latest.

“Now is also an opportune time to update you on my own position,” Davies told the AGM of NatWest, formerly known as RBS.

“I am approaching the point where I will have served eight years on the board so it is appropriate to initiate the search for my successor as chairman in the coming months.

“This will allow time for a rigorous search process and an orderly handover, which I expect will take place at some point before I reach nine years tenure in July 2024.

“That is the maximum recommended in the UK Corporate Governance Code. 

“The search for my successor will be led jointly by the Senior Independent Directors of NatWest Group and NatWest Holdings.”

Davies also told the meeting: “In the first few months of the year, we have already seen the impact that uncertainty and rising interest rates can have on the banking sector, with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the United States and some other lenders there.

“We also saw the acquisition of Credit Suisse by UBS, facilitated by the Swiss authorities.

“Ultimately, poor risk management and long-standing, idiosyncratic challenges were largely to blame for those failures.

“The NatWest Group, by contrast, has built a robust and resilient balance sheet with strong capital and liquidity, a largely secured retail loan book and well-diversified commercial lending.

“Tight risk management underpins our strategy and ensures we are well-positioned for the future.

“We nonetheless continue to monitor customer activity and behaviours closely for signs of stress, taking action where appropriate.

“Against this difficult and uncertain economic backdrop, the group performed strongly in 2022 with continued responsible growth in our lending and progress against our strategy.

“The bank’s share price increased by 17.5 per cent in 2022, outperforming our major UK peers.

“We also continued to deliver sustainable returns to shareholders, announcing £5.1 billion of dividends and buybacks for 2022.

“As well as the £1 billion final dividend that you are voting on today, we paid an interim dividend of £364 million and a special dividend of £1.75 billion, alongside a share consolidation.

“We also completed a £750 million on-market buyback and announced a further £800 million share buyback at our Full Year Results.

“And we were pleased to have the opportunity to buy back £1.2 billion of shares directly from the government.

“The government also continued to sell shares into the market throughout the year through its trading plan, which the Treasury recently announced it will maintain until August 2025.

“As a result of these disposals, the government’s shareholding is now below 42 per cent, down from 52 per cent at the start of last year.

“That is positive progress on the path to full privatisation.

“Today, we are seeking to renew our shareholder authority to undertake further directed buybacks, should the Treasury give us permission to do so.”