Belfast Telegraph

Alison Rose: RBS’s new boss makes history but faces daunting task

Alison Rose appointment is momentous for the bank but she has a string of challenges to wrestle when she takes over the reins at the bank.

Alison Rose joined the bank 27 years ago as a graduate (PA)
Alison Rose joined the bank 27 years ago as a graduate (PA)

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

Her appointment was hardly unexpected, but Royal Bank of Scotland’s decision to select Alison Rose as its next top boss was undeniably momentous.

Speculation has rattled on for months that Ms Rose would replace departing chief executive officer Ross McEwan and the publicly-owned bank finally announced on Friday that she would take over the reins.

The move makes Ms Rose, who joined the bank 27 years ago as a graduate, the first woman to lead one of the UK’s big four banks.

It also made the bank the only FTSE 100 firm to have women in its two top executive roles, joining chief financial officer Katie Murray who joined RBS last year.

Despite her historic appointment, analysts have seen Ms Rose as the “continuity candidate” for a company still facing a plethora of major challenges.

Mr McEwan led the business through a dramatic turnaround over the past five-and-a-half years as he sought to put the firm on a stronger financial footing.

But now Ms Rose must wrestle with the daunting task of continuing the repair of the bank’s public reputation after a string of scandals.

The bank has sought to draw a line under scandals, such as accusations of poor treatment of business customers by the company’s global restructuring division.

The new chief will also take over as the bank tackles potentially challenging economic conditions, especially if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

Another key task for Ms Rose will be managing the transition back to full private ownership, which remains a tricky task given the remaining 62% Government stake in the business.

Ms Rose’s commercial banking background will help her in the top job as the group is getting back to basics David Madden, CMC Markets UK

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, added: “It is also worth considering that a potential Labour-led administration might look to keep the bank in public hands to use it as a vehicle to support domestic economic growth.”

But many feel that Ms Rose’s background in the bank’s commercial division provides her with ample ammunition to tackle these obstacles head on.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The finance house is still majority-owned by the UK Government, and Ms Rose’s commercial banking background will help her in the top job as the group is getting back to basics.”

It is understood her appointment was approved by RBS’s board more than a month ago, but has been waiting for clearance from regulators.

Ms Rose has been considered a key figure at RBS since she took over from Chris Sullivan as the firm’s head of commercial and private banking in 2014.

Her public profile and position as favourite to take over from Mr McEwan escalated after the departure of former finance director Ewen Stevenson last year and she was asked by the Government to lead a review into female entrepreneurship.

She has successfully developed a near bullet-proof reputation as an ever-reliable banker during her time at the business.

Analysts have already suggested that her consistency could be exactly what the taxpayer-controlled bank needs to deal with a turbulent period for UK banks.

Investors and traders appeared to agree as shares lifted in trading, rising more than 3%, after her appointment was announced to the market.