NATIONAL Australia Bank is making contingency plans for its UK operations in the event that the referendum on Scottish independence returns a ‘yes’ vote, chief executive Cameron Clyne told analysts.
The outgoing CEO said the lender is “keeping a close eye on the vote” in response to questions about the likely implications, according to David Ellis at Morningstar.
Clydesdale Bank is headquartered in Glasgow, while Yorkshire Bank is based in Leeds.
They employ more than 7,100 people, including 4,000 in Scotland and 1,000 in Yorkshire.
David Thorburn, chief executive of the UK operations, told The Yorkshire Post: “We do have to think through what we might have to do in certain circumstances here.
“As a company we have decided we will stay neutral on this because it is a decision for the Scottish people.”
He said preparations are limited by the uncertainty over issues like currency and regulation in the event that the Scots vote for independence.
“We are just getting on with the day job,” said Mr Thorburn. “It is not distracting us at all.”
The future of Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks has been the subject of steady speculation.
This has been heightened in recent years with Australian investors blaming the UK operations for being a drag on the performance of the parent company.
In spite of favourable London stock market conditions, Mr Thorburn said the company has “no plans at all” to float and said speculative questions about a private equity buyout or tie-up with another UK lender are for the Australian owners rather than the UK managers.
“We are focusing on doing our job here and trying to make Yorkshire Bank as competitive as possible,” he said.
Mr Clyne, who stands down as chief executive this summer, said NAB achieved a good result for the six months ending March 31 with progress on a number of fronts.
He said: “The economic environment continued to improve during the period. This is evident in the UK where confidence and economic growth have risen again and become more broad based.”
NAB said its quarantined book of UK commercial property loans continued to shrink with the outstanding balance now at £2.9bn.
The portfolio saw a slowdown in the emergence of new impaired loans, recoveries on existing impaired exposures and lower bad and doubtful debts.