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Outgoing RBS boss Ross McEwan to run ailing Australian bank

Simon English

Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Ross McEwan has landed the top job at National Australia Bank, a lender mired in allegations of misconduct.

That move could pave the way for RBS to appoint its first female chief executive, with Alison Rose, the deputy chief executive of RBS’s NatWest arm, widely seen as the front-runner.

McEwan, 62, said in April he was leaving RBS. He has a notice period of one year, but can leave as soon as RBS unveils his successor.

Some said the Kiwi is jumping from the frying pan into the fire, since NAB has almost as many problems as RBS did when he arrived six years ago.

McEwan could earn more than £5 million a year in the new job compared with the £3.5 million a year he typically got from RBS.

NAB’s CEO Andrew Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry resigned in February after they were singled out by a royal commission into banking for not understanding the level of misconduct within the bank.

Bank analyst Brett Le Mesurier of Shaw and Partners said: “He knows what a mess looks like.”

Morningstar analyst David Ellis said: “It’s going to be a tough job. He’s facing a very hostile environment and a soft economy.”

McEwan told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I don’t think it’s a poison chalice at all. I don’t think it’s a broken bank, I think it’s a bank that has gone through the royal commission and had questions asked of it as have many other financial institutions in Australia.”

Phil Chronican, the interim NAB CEO, will become chairman.

He said: “Ross McEwan is the ideal leader for NAB as we seek to transform our operations and culture firmly around leading customer service, experience and products. RBS has been through many of the same challenges which NAB now faces around culture, trust and reputation.”

If she gets the job, Rose, 50, would be the first woman to head one of the big UK banks. She has close links to government, having led a Treasury review on barriers for women in business. She lives in Highgate.

McEwan is tipped for an honorary knighthood for services to banking.