Yorkshire Bank CEO stands down as Aussie owner speeds up plans to exit UK

David Thorburn
David Thorburn
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THE CHIEF executive of Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks is to stand down as owner National Australia Bank looks to accelerate its exit from the UK.

NAB is understood to have appointed City headhunters Korn Ferry to find a replacement for David Thorburn, who spent nearly four years in the role. An internal search is also thought to be taking place.

NAB said the succession process was “well underway” and Mr Thorburn will stay on to help ensure a smooth transition.

As CEO, he carried out a deep restructuring exercise at Yorkshire and Clydesdale, resulting in the loss of 1,400 jobs and a retreat to the lenders’ northern and Scottish heartlands.

Mr Thorburn was also forced to set aside more than £1.2bn in provisions to compensate households and businesses for the mis-selling of useless or toxic products.

Jim Pettigrew, who became chairman of the UK business last summer, thanked Mr Thorburn for his significant contribution over many years.

He joined Clydesdale as a management trainee in 1978 and spent most of his career at the lenders, bar nine years with TSB Scotland from 1984.

Mr Thorburn, 57 this Friday, is said to be in good health.

The chairman said: “David successfully completed the UK strategic review in 2012, which was undertaken to identify the changes needed to deliver sustainable and satisfactory returns from the UK banking business.

“As a result of David’s efforts, the UK banking business is in much better shape, with the 2014 results showing improvement in a number of areas including asset quality and a lower risk loan book.”

Mr Thorburn, who took over from Lynne Peacock in summer 2011, said Yorkshire and Clydesdale are in much better shape.

“However, having been CEO for almost four years, I came to the view that it was in the best interests of the business for me to stand down at this time and allow an injection of new leadership to take place,” he added.

“I believe that the business requires a five-year commitment from me, particularly as NAB looks at options to accelerate the exit from its UK banking business and I felt this was a significant undertaking.

“This has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding role, and I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work, and I wish the board and the executive team every success in the future.”

NAB is understood to have appointed Morgan Stanley and Macquarrie to advise on its options to exit the UK. These include a possible stock market flotation.

Commentators said yesterday that Mr Thorburn’s departure suggested that a sale might be more likely than initial public offering.

But Sky News said NAB’s leadership had concluded that a new CEO was required to take the business to public markets.

Speculation aside, the incoming chief should take over a business with the potential to act as a standalone challenger bank to Britain’s incumbent lenders.

Analysts point out that Yorkshire and Clydesdale have so far only utilised around a third of the £1.2bn set aside for mis-selling.