Belfast Telegraph

Tesco Bank begins search for successor to chief executive Benny Higgins

Tesco Bank has begun hunting for a successor to outgoing chief executive Benny Higgins, and says customer numbers have kept growing despite last year's cyber attack.

Mr Higgins said the search for his replacement would start immediately after announcing he would bring to an end a 10-year tenure by stepping down in February 2018.

However, he dismissed the idea that his decision was linked to the cyber heist in November 2016, which forced the lender to pay out £2.5 million to 9,000 customers who had money stolen for their accounts.

Speaking about his departure, he said: "One of the tough choices that not everybody can make is choosing the time that is right for them and right for the business.

"I think 10 years is, for me, a very obvious time to embark on something else, and is a good time for the business to bring in fresh leadership."

When asked who might lead the bank in the future, he said it was "very early days" and the decision would be made by the bank's board.

He also batted away the prospect that his departure could lead Tesco to hoist a for sale sign over the lender.

However, he said he will look for another project, with the aim of taking up a "full-time position" once he leaves in eight month's time.

Focussing on the cyber attack, he said: "We have taken every step which we think is appropriate to ensure (our) defences against anything similar.

"Our business has actually shown, if anything, stronger growth since November. I don't want that to sound in anyway complacent because we never are... but the business has attracted more customers, across more products, since then."

Mr Higgins joined Tesco Bank in 2008 when the supermarket giant bought out Royal Bank of Scotland's 50% stake in what was a joint venture between the two firms.

He has overseen a dramatic transformation of the business, including the launch of a current account, increasing customer account numbers from 5.8 million to eight million and bolstering staff from 200 to 4,000 at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

However, his stewardship has also courted controversy.

Last year, it was reported that he had billed Tesco Bank £18,000 in taxi expenses during an eight-month period.

The chief executive, who was paid £2.1 million last year, was ferried to the Royal Opera House, private members' clubs and several plush London restaurants.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis, said: "Benny has steered Tesco Bank to the strong position it is in today.

"The strong growth in customers, deposits and lending is down to his leadership. It has been a pleasure having him on the leadership team, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours."

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