NAB names former Commonwealth Bank retail boss Ross McEwan as new chief executive

It will be the second time Mr McEwan has taken the hot seat at a troubled bank.

It will be the second time Mr McEwan has taken the hot seat at a troubled bank. Photo: Getty

NAB has tasked former Commonwealth Bank retail boss Ross McEwan with rebuilding the bank’s battered reputation as its new chief executive and managing director.

Mr McEwan, who led CBA’s retail operations between 2007 and 2012, quit as chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland three months ago and will join NAB as soon as he has fulfilled his outstanding obligations to the UK bank.

NAB on Friday said that will be no later than April next year.

The smallest of Australia’s big four banks had been looking for a new CEO since February, when Andrew Thorburn quit after being criticised in the financial services royal commission final report.

“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,” interim chief executive Phil Chronican said.

“Ross brings a compelling range of experience across finance, insurance and investment with a track record of delivering important and practical improvements for customers.”

It is the second time Mr McEwan has taken the hot seat at a troubled bank.


Ross McEwan in London in 2014 when he was chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Photo: AAP

He took charge of RBS in 2013 after a year heading its retail operations, immediately waiving his annual bonus for the first two financial years as the lender prepared to announce a fifth straight annual loss.

RBS, which needed government support during the GFC, had also made billions of pounds of provisions for various issues including mis-selling payment protection insurance.

NAB in May slashed its dividend to its lowest in almost nine years after its provisions for customer remediation – related to the sort of conduct uncovered at the royal commission – hit $1.1 billion.

“RBS has been through many of the same challenges which NAB now faces around culture, trust and reputation,” Mr Chronican said.

Mr McEwan, who left CBA shortly after fellow New Zealand-born banker Ian Narev was promoted to CEO, said NAB now needed to meet and exceed community expectations.

“It is a privilege to return to Australia and lead NAB at a crucial time for the bank, its customers, employees, shareholders and the broader community,” Mr McEwan said.

“The community … expects a higher level of accountability and transparency from the banking industry [and] Australians deserve NAB to be a world class service provider.”

Although Mr Chronican has halted branch closures that formed part of Mr Thorburn’s multi-billion dollar restructure of the bank, Mr McEwan indicated that he would press on with the overhaul.

“There are a number of areas where NAB can extend its lead, such as business banking, agriculture and health, and other areas where I believe we should consistently lead such as customer service,” Mr McEwan said.

“It is essential that I protect and accelerate the bank’s transformation program.”

Mike Baird, who in 2017 agreed to join NAB just six weeks after resigning as NSW Premier, was initially rumoured to be among the candidates for the role but NAB opted for an external appointment.

Shares in NAB were worth $26.92 before trade on Friday having gained $2.85, or 11.8 per cent, so far in 2019.


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