Shareholders slam ‘docile sheep’ on the board at Yorkshire Bank’s owner

Andrew Thorburn, new chief executive at NAB
Andrew Thorburn, new chief executive at NAB
Have your say

ANGRY SHAREHOLDERS have barracked the board of National Australia Bank and called for an overhaul at the parent of Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks, according to media reports of the annual meeting in Brisbane.

One shareholder was quoted describing the board as “a leaderless flock of docile sheep” and said “a couple of all-in wrestlers” are needed to shake up “an entrenched culture of apathy”.

Yorkshire and Clydesdale have been blamed for a near 10 per cent fall in full-year cash earnings for their parent after being hit with legacy conduct charges.

NAB has set aside more than £1.23bn to compensate UK customers for the mis-selling of useless or toxic products to households and businesses.

Australian shareholders have long blamed Yorkshire and Clydesdale for poor performance of the group relative to its peers.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank estimate that NAB’s UK and wealth operations eat up about 26 per cent of the group’s equity, but produce just 10 per cent of profits,

Michael Chaney, chairman of NAB since 2005, rejected the criticism of the board.

“There is a steely determination to do well in the future,” he was quoted as saying by the Australian Business Review.

“Specifically, NAB has had a UK bank at a time when the UK economy was in deep recession and all banks either failed or made losses.”

Andrew Thorburn, the new chief executive, told shareholders that selling Yorkshire and Clydesdale was “urgent”, said the report.

The environment for a sale, potentially via a float, was “much improved” and NAB had “all hands to the wheel” to do a deal, Mr Thorburn was quoted as saying.

NAB is understood to have appointed Morgan Stanley and Macquarrie to advise on its options to exit the UK.

NAB’s exposure to these shores was reduced further this week after it agreed the sale of a £1.2bn parcel of higher risk commercial real estate loans to Cerberus Global Investors, the US private equity fund betting on an improvement in the European property market.

NAB sold a £625m bundle of loans to Cerberus earlier in the year. The portfolio has reduced from £5.6bn in October 2012 to £836m.

NAB is expected to provide an update on its exit strategy in February.