Meeting with Banker Ross McEwan

Three years ago Ross McEwan set a Kiwi cat among Irish pigeons when, as newly installed chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), he ordered a review into the future of Ulster Bank. Now back in profit, it’s a “core” franchise, but its £15bn rescue will take decades to recover. The Irish Independent’s deputy business editor Donal O’Donovan meets the RBS chief.

A “review”, O’Donavan writes, is often code for hanging out a For Sale sign, but it didn’t happen. RBS opted to stick with Ulster Bank – though only after splitting its operations in the Republic from the business in Northern Ireland.

Three years, and one Brexit vote, later McEwan, 59, says things worked out well.

“Ulster Bank is part of the bank. It’s not for sale. We’ve got a business here in the Republic that strategically it was a good call to hold on to,” he says.

RBS remains a banking giant but McEwan is happy to have seen its ambitions shrink to focus on the UK and Ireland. “We were so big. When you think about what we were we were a global business in 50 countries and Ireland was just another one of those.”

The strategy now is built around a core banking operation in the UK and Ireland, he says. “Everything else has to actually add to or help those businesses, so we have a US business because it supports the businesses in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and the financial operations we deal with, and the same with our Asian operations.”

McEwan’s definition of a good bank is interesting. He’s intensely focused on net promoter scores – a measure of customer endorsement.

“We’ve based the entire bank ambition on getting to number one in customer trust and service and advocacy by the time we get to 2020.”

McEwan is originally from Hawke’s Bay.

Original article by Donal O’Donovan, Irish Independent, October 6, 2016.

Photo by Colin O’Riordan.

Tags: Irish Independent  Ross McEwan  Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)  Ulster Bank  

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