Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank CEO quits his 'hugely challenging' role

By John Mulgrew

Jim Brown said his time as chief executive at Ulster Bank was "hugely challenging" as he prepares to leave for another major role within the Royal Bank of Scotland group.

The New Zealander is taking up the job as chief executive of Williams & Glyn - part of the RBS group.

But he will remain in Ireland until a successor is appointed to fill the position.

And in an internal Ulster Bank memo seen by the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Brown said "last four years have been quite a journey".

"I will be leaving Ulster Bank to take up this role, once the search to find my successor is complete," he said.

"When I arrived in Ireland from Hong Kong in April 2011, RBS, the Irish market and the Ulster Bank business were all working through the immediate effects of the financial crisis and its resulting impact on both our people and our customers.

"This period has been hugely challenging," he said.

That journey included trying to turn the fortunes of the ailing bank around following the economic crisis in 2008, and the massive fallout caused when an IT glitch caused chaos for tens of thousands of its customers.

And during his time in charge, dozens of branches were shut and hundreds of jobs cut in a bid to slash costs.

"So while I'm sorry to be leaving Ulster Bank, I am extremely proud of the progress we have made, he said.

RBS branches in England and Wales will now become part of Williams & Glyn when it launches, by the end of 2016 - a job which will be headed by Mr Brown once his replacement has been found.

The majority taxpayer-owned bank is spinning 314 of its some 2,000 branches into the revamped old brand to meet European Union rules on state aid.

It was last on the high street nearly 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown - who joined Ulster Bank in 2011 - saw his overall pay package jump by 66% last year as the bank returned to profit for the first time since the financial crisis.

He came in to return the bank's all-island fortunes back to profitability - something which it did last year.

It posted operating profits of more than £600m in 2014 - spurred on by additional cash clawed back from loan impairments.

But in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year, Mr Brown couldn't rule out additional job losses at the company amid restructuring.

Mr Brown spent his career working throughout Asia, before moving to the colder climate of his soon-to-be Dublin head office.

Before joining RBS he held a number of management roles, including Dutch bank ABN Amro.

And in an interview shortly after taking up the reins at Ulster Bank, Mr Brown said he had dealt with a mortgage crisis in Taiwan, as well as consumer finance crises in both Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates - contributing to the reasons he was asked to relocate to Ireland following the 2008 crash.

There had been widespread calls to hive off Ulster Bank - acquired when RBS bought NatWest in 2000 - something the parent company poured cold water on last year.

And in his farewell email to staff, Mr Brown said: "At all times I have felt your support, and that of our customers, as we have made difficult decisions in making the bank safe and sound, and in returning our business to profitability."

Belfast Telegraph