RBS expected to become the first Big Four UK bank to be led by a woman, with Alison Rose tipped to take over the reins from departing CEO Ross McEwan

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Alison Rose is tipped for the top job at RBS in what could be a landmark appointment for women in banking (Credit: RBS)

Alison Rose is widely tipped to be appointed as the next chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and in doing so become the first female boss of a Big Four bank in the UK.

Current CEO Ross McEwan announced in April his intention to step down from his role at the head of the 62% state-owned banking giant, saying it was the “right time” to go having delivered on his strategy of stabilising the bank following its post-crisis bailout.

Rose currently serves as deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings — a division of RBS — as well as heading up RBS’ commercial and private banking division.

Sky News, which first reported the imminent nomination of Rose, said regulators are currently in the process of considering the bank’s application to appoint her.

 

Who is Alison Rose? An RBS ‘lifer’ now tipped for the top job

A history graduate from Durham University, Rose joined RBS in 1994 and has been there ever since — forging a path up the corporate steps over the course of a 25-year career.

She has held senior roles in the leveraged finance, international banking and commercial banking divisions of the business, and was made deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings in December 2018.

Rose has been a strong advocate of gender diversity in the workplace, and recently led the Rose Review — a Treasury-commissioned report on female entrepreneurship in the UK, and the barriers faced by women seeking to develop a business.

In it, she said: “I firmly believe that the disparity that exists between female and male entrepreneurs is unacceptable and holding the UK back. The unrealised potential for the UK economy is enormous.

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The Royal Bank of Scotland is about to reveal its new boss to guide it through difficult times to come (Credit: Mark Ramsay/Flickr)

“To make the UK the most attractive place to do business we need the creativity and innovation that comes from diversity of thought in order to keep up with the rapidly changing world around us.”

Within RBS, Rose oversees an accelerator programme for entrepreneurs — with 50% of the participants being female — as well as the bank’s Women in Business programme, which runs a support network helping female business leaders achieve success.

Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed, she was shortlisted for the ‘most influential woman in investment banking’ award by Financial News and included in the 2018 Women in Fintech Powerlist.

 

What will Alison Rose encounter at the head of RBS?

RBS remains 62.4% publicly-owned, following a £46bn government bailout agreement at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

Last year, the Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed Treasury plans to offload its shares in the bank over a five year period — yielding an estimated £20.6bn ($24.9bn) by 2024.

It is likely that the re-privatisation of the Royal Bank of Scotland will fall under Rose’s stewardship, bringing to an end more than a decade of public ownership.

The challenge of navigating Brexit and global economic uncertainty caused by global trade tensions will dominate the near-term outlooks of all firms working across financial services.

RBS’ latest financial results revealed a 46% year-on-year increase to operating profits in the first six months of the year to £2.69bn ($3.25bn) — attributable profits grew to £2.04bn ($2.46bn) in the same period.

A £1.7bn ($2.1bn) dividend to shareholders was also announced, around £1bn ($1.2bn) of which will be paid to Treasury coffers.

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Brexit uncertainty is clouding economic prospects across the industry

RBS issued a warning, however, that it was “very unlikely” to hit next year’s profit targets, given the uncertainty and upheaval caused by Brexit and other global economic challenges.

Outgoing CEO McEwan, who is now poised to become CEO of National Australia Bank, said: “This is a solid set of results in challenging market conditions.

“We have delivered our largest half year profit in more than a decade and have announced a further £1.7bn ($2.1bn) in dividends to shareholders, of which more than £1bn ($1.2bn) will go directly to the UK taxpayer.

“Given the uncertain and competitive environment, we are focused on the areas we can control — costs are down, capital and liquidity are strong and we continue to grow lending to the real economy.”