New Royal Bank of Scotland boss Ross McEwan pledged to repay the taxpayer’s support by doing “everything possible” to help the UK economy recover, as he began his first day in charge of the state-backed lender.
He said the bank would put the calamities of the past behind it and made clear that it owed a debt to the public after the Government stepped in to save RBS five years ago, saying it would increase lending.
Mr McEwan said: “We are now faced with an opportunity to build on our progress and create a bank that is known for exceptional customer service and not for failure.”
He has already given key endorsement to the Coalition’s Help to Buy policy, after announcing at the weekend that the group would back the new mortgage guarantee phase of the scheme as it was brought forward. The 56-year-old New Zealander was also described today as a “customer banker through and through” by RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton - as Sir Philip appeared to draw a distinction with the risky practices of the bank’s investment arm which took it to the brink.
In a message to staff, Mr McEwan sought to focus on serving households and business through its retail arm, which he has headed for a year since being poached from an Australian bank..
He replaces Stephen Hester, who announced his departure in the summer amid reports of a rift with Chancellor George Osborne. In his message, Mr McEwan made clear that the bank, rescued by the taxpayer at the height of the financial crisis and still 80% government owned, owed a debt to taxpayers. Mr McEwan said: “It’s clear to me that we have a greater obligation than any other bank to build a business that supports its customers. We were saved by the Government five years ago because of how important we are to the everyday economy of the UK.’’