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Morning Coffee: RBS’s floundering investment bank to be led by ex-retail banking HR manager

Ross Mcewan

Ross McEwan’s appointment as Stephen Hester’s replacement at RBS isn’t quite a done deal, but it’s getting there. All that’s required is for the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority to give the nod and it seems that McEwan will be anointed CEO-in-waiting when the bank announces its second quarter results tomorrow. This is what you need to know before that moment comes.

1. Ross McEwan does have a tiny bit of investment banking-type experience

Much has been made of the fact that McEwan is a retail banker who will have no idea how to run RBS’s investment bank. While McEwan’s background is indeed almost entirely retail banking focused, it’s worth noting that he does have a tiny bit of wholesale banking-type experience (which will undoubtedly be emphasized to the PRA) – he spent several years as chief executive of First NZ Securities, a New Zealand-based equity broker which had a global alliance with Credit Suisse.

2. Ross McEwan spent 10 years working his way up one insurance company 

McEwan’s big break came at National Mutual/Axa. He joined in 1986 when he was 28 and was made chief executive ten years later.

3. Ross McEwan may be more inclined to hire you if you went to Massey University in New Zealand

McEwan studied business studies at New Zealand’s Massey University. When the Massey University Magazine went to interview him at Axa, it found that he had hired a lot of other Massey graduates.

4. Ross McEwan spent several years thinking he wanted to work in HR 

Instead of leaving university and going straight onto a banking graduate programme, McEwan spent several years working in HR. He started as a personnel manager for Unilever, and then became a personnel manager for Dunlop, and then became an HR manager for National Mutual.

5. Ross McEwan came to the UK to put his thwarted Antipodean ambitions behind him

Ross McEwan came to RBS because he was passed over for promotion at Commonwealth Bank Australia. Having been head of retail banking at CBA for five years, it was widely expected that McEwan would replace the CEO when he retired. Instead, that job went to the head of strategy and McEwan then escaped to London (and Edinburgh) and the job at RBS.

Meanwhile:

Ross McEwan is “as close as you could get to a carbon copy of Antony Jenkins.” (Financial Times)

The poor performance of European banks’ fixed income units doesn’t bode at all well for RBS’s investment bank which is over-reliant on fixed income – and on the declining rates business in particular. (Financial News) 

Andy Smith, head of equity research at Sberbank, is leaving after signing off on an equity research note which contained material from rivals. (Bloomberg) 

BTG Pactual is on a hiring spree and has recruited nearly a dozen commodities traders, managers and analysts in London, Geneva and New York. (Reuters) 

This year, only 27% of Harvard’s Class of 2013 went into financial services, the lowest percentage in memory. (Poetsandquants) 

Ex-bankers are putting themselves on the list for council flats in Tower Hamlets. (Evening Standard)   

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  1. RBS is dead in the current form. The sheer incompetence in the firm has destroyed the brand.

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