By Gavin Finch and Ambereen Choudhury
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Financial Investments Ltd., which manages Britain’s stakes in banks, hired Credit Suisse Group AG’s James Leigh-Pemberton as executive chairman, as the government prepares to reduce its holdings.
Leigh-Pemberton, 56, was chief executive officer of Credit Suisse’s British business, London-based UKFI said in a statement today. In the newly created position, he replaces UKFI’s outgoing CEO Jim O’Neil, who is joining Bank of America Corp., and Chairman Robin Budenberg, who is retiring.
He arrives as the government considers selling as much as 5 billion pounds ($8 billion) of shares in Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, as soon as this month, three people with knowledge of the matter have said. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is seeking to capitalize on the 60 percent gain in Lloyds shares this year, which has pushed the stock to above the price at which the government says it will break even on its 20 billion-pound investment.
Leigh-Pemberton will also advise the government on when it should start selling its 81 percent stake in Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc after the Edinburgh-based lender received a 45.5 billion-pound bailout during the banking crisis.
“He is, literally, uniquely well qualified for this role,” Budenberg said in the statement. “Lloyds and RBS are both now entering new phases in their development as taxpayer investments and now is the right time for UKFI to take on fresh leadership.”
Leigh-Pemberton joined Credit Suisse in 1994 as head of equity syndicate. He went on to run its European investment-banking business and was appointed country CEO of the U.K. in 2008. He is the son of former Bank of England Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton.
“They have the right man for the job,” said Jonathan Grundy, co-head of U.K. investment banking at Credit Suisse. “It’s coming at a time when that role is becoming increasingly active from an execution standpoint.”
UKFI also hired Oliver Holbourn for the newly created role of head of capital markets. He comes from Bank of America Corp., where he has been running the equity capital markets desk since 2007.
O’Neil, who joined UKFI three years ago and was named CEO in 2012, will move to Bank of America’s securities unit in London this year to advise clients on the financial-services industry, working with Bill Egan. O’Neil worked at Bank of America for 17 years and is a former head of corporate finance in Europe.
O’Neil was paid 180,000 pounds for the 12 months ended March 31, while Budenberg, 54, earned 75,000 pounds, according to UKFI’s annual report.