NATIONAL AUSTRALIA Bank has hired a turnaround chief from the tough world of Irish banking to lead Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks ahead of their attempted sale.
David Duffy, 53, took over Allied Irish Banks in 2011 after a 20bn euro taxpayer bailout, restored it to profit and steered it safely through European stress tests.
NAB said it was delighted with the appointment of its new chief executive while AIB said it was “very sad” to see him go.
His arrival will be one of the final pieces in the jigsaw as the Australian bank tries to accelerate its exit from the UK market.
Andrew Thorburn, chief executive of NAB, said: “David’s leadership in the turnaround of AIB during a very challenging period for Irish banks is impressive.
“For the past three years, he has led the bank’s strong and sustainable profit growth, created a dynamic leadership team and gained the confidence and support of key stakeholders from staff, customers and investors to regulators, ratings agencies and governments.
“As a result of these strong capabilities, David is uniquely qualified to meet the challenges and opportunities of this important role.”
Colleagues in Ireland described Mr Duffy as “charismatic, outgoing, energetic and good fun” and said he is not afraid to face a challenge. “He had to do some really tough things at AIB,” said one.
Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister, said the nationalised lender - which is 99 per cent owned by the state - has undergone a major transformation under Mr Duffy.
AIB’s extensive restructuring required is largely completed and the bank has significantly improved its relationship with new and existing customers, added Mr Noonan.
Last week, the minister instructed Goldman Sachs to advise on the sale of AIB.
NAB is understood to have appointed Morgan Stanley and Macquarrie to help examine options to sell its UK operations, including a possible stock market flotation.
Analysts said Mr Duffy will need to get the business into strong enough shape to attract investors in an already crowded market.
Gary Greenwood, analyst at Shore Capital, said: “It does need a tidying up and presenting in a better form. It’s not as though investors don’t have choice in terms of picking up challenger banks.”
Virgin Money, TSB and OneSavings Bank listed last year and the Government is also selling its shares in Lloyds Banking Group.
New bank Aldermore is expected to revive plans to list on the London Stock Exchange this year.
The new CEO will take over in the next few months. He replaces David Thorburn, a Clydesdale veteran who is standing down after nearly four years in the top job.
NAB said the performance of Yorkshire and Clydesdale is improving. The lenders were badly hit by the downturn in the commercial property market and their subsequent recovery has been overshadowed by mounting costs to compensate customers for mis-selling.
Jim Pettigrew, chairman of Yorkshire and Clydesdale, said Mr Duffy is “a passionate and genuine customer champion”, whose skills, leadership, energy and strategic vision will be invaluable as the lenders move into the next stage of their development.
He added: “David’s decision to join us is also a real vote of confidence in Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, our people and our future prospects in the UK market.”