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RBS Approached Whitbread Chief Brittain for Potential CEO Role

RBS Approached Whitbread Chief Brittain for Potential CEO Role

  • Hospitality CEO previously had a senior position at Lloyds
  • Brittain among external candidates sounded out as McEwan exits
Alison Brittain
Alison Brittain

Source: Whitbread Plc

Alison Brittain

Source: Whitbread Plc

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Whitbread Plc Chief Executive Officer Alison Brittain has been approached as a candidate to succeed Ross McEwan as boss of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, adding to signs the lender is broadening its search as it seeks a new leader.

Brittain, who has run the British hotel and restaurant operator for nearly four years, is one of several candidates who have been sounded out for the role, people familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified. She wasn’t interested in the position, one of the people said.

The state-owned lender has been contacting the U.K.’s top bankers as McEwan takes on another turnaround job at a scandal-hit Australian bank. A decision is expected by RBS on its next CEO within weeks.

Alison Rose, deputy chief executive officer of its largest unit, has been widely regarded as the favorite, but other names have entered the frame this month after McEwan signed up to run National Australia Bank Ltd. The Financial Times said last week that RBS had approached HSBC Holdings Plc’s head of its U.K. retail bank, Ian Stuart.

RBS and Whitbread’s Brittain declined to comment.

Until 2015, Brittain headed retail banking at Lloyds Banking Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest mortgage lender, and like Rose, she was one of the most senior women in U.K. financial services. The 54-year-old started her career at Barclays Plc, where she worked for about 19 years before joining Banco Santander SA’s British arm. At Lloyds, she had been viewed as a potential CEO to replace Antonio Horta-Osorio, who remains in his role.

State Ownership

RBS is due to publish first-half results on Friday. Some analysts have said the bank is likely to name its CEO at the same time, letting McEwan, who has spent around six years in his job, move on before his year-long notice period is up in April.

The new CEO’s biggest challenge will be to steward the lender out of the state ownership it has had for more than a decade. RBS finally swung to a profit in 2017 after a decade of losses, and has generated capital far greater than required by regulators. It also announced special dividends for the first time in 10 years.

The bank, historically the U.K.’s largest lender to small- and medium-sized businesses, relies heavily on its mortgage book: personal banking, which includes home loans, made up about half of the bank’s net interest income last year.