Fred Goodwin

Group CEO, Royal Bank of Scotland

Being known as Fred the Shred doesn't bother Fred Goodwin. In fact, as CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBSGF ), he believes the nickname even has its benefits. After helping to mastermind the bank's $30 billion takeover of the much larger National Westminster Bank PLC (NWBKF ) in March, 2000, he has to cut 18,000 people--18% of the workforce--and slash more than $1.4 billion in costs from the combined company by spring 2003. Goodwin, who is now 42, wasn't well-known in the London investment community but his catchy nickname soon was.

He seems to have lived up to it. One year later, the bank has confounded skeptics by nearly reaching its goal early. "I am savoring the moment," he admits. Now Goodwin, who likes to tinker under the hood of his Triumph Stag sports car, finds himself driving Europe's second-largest bank by market value. Last year, it had profits of $6.3 billion and was Europe's top-performing blue-chip stock.

Where does this tall, slim father of two intend to steer Royal Bank of Scotland next? Possibly into a bigger presence in the U.S., where it owns Citizens Financial Group Inc. (CNFL ), the No. 2 bank in New England. But Goodwin plans to keep his options open. "Lots of organizations I have seen are fixated with having a vision of the future and trying to get there.... The future doesn't always come out the way you think it's going to," he says. Fred the Shred plans to be ready for anything.

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