Antonio Lorenzo has been widely tipped as the most likely candidate to replace Tim Tookey as the finance director of Lloyds, but Financial Director has been told that he is not the “most obvious” candidate.
It was announced earlier this week that Tookey, who served as FD of the UK’s biggest high street lender since 2008, was leaving the bank to become chief financial officer at Friends Life, the UK life assurance provider created by Clive Cowdery’s Resolution Group.
His sudden departure sparked rumours of a rift with Horta-Osório. Tookey is reported to have been a close ally of the former chief executive, while Horta-Osório’s decision to bring in Nathan Bostock, the former finance director at Santander UK, as head of wholesale banking, left some feeling that Bostock was being lined up as Tookey’s eventual replacement.
Tookey will remain on the board until the end of February next year and an external search to find a replacement will now begin. Ian Gordon, analyst at Evolution Securities, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying that he doubted that a search for Tookey’s successor will take long “given that the obvious candidate, Antonio Lorenzo, is already in the building”.
But Mark Freebairn, partner in the CFO practice at Odgers Berndtson, is not so sure. “You have got a group of shareholders and a non executive board who are committed to the CEO but want to see a CFO that is entirely independent of thought,” he says. “Horta-Osório’s best mate, while a useful addition to have in the business, is maybe not the most obvious candidate.”
Tookey, who will follow former Lloyds senior insurance executive Andy Briggs to Friends Life, represents the last vestiges of the management team that was led by former chief executive Eric Daniels during the bank’s ill-fated takeover of HBOS.
Daniels left earlier this year and was replaced by António Horta-Osório, who joined the bank from Santander UK and took over as CEO in February. Other members of the management team associated with the HBOS acquisition to have departed this year include Helen Weir, the former head of retail banking, and Archie Kane, head of insurance.
In a conference call, Tookey was quick to deny that there had been any rift with the CEO, stressing that it was the “right time for a new challenge”.
“There has been absolutely no disagreement on strategy between António and I at Lloyd’s,” Tookey said.
Freebairn said it is unlikely that Tookey was forced out against his will.
“In a situation where a move was forced by the CEO, the FD would not be given time to find a new job to go to. Anyone saying that Horta-Osório was a calculating shark or that Tim did a bad job and had to go is being unfair to both.”
But there are those that felt that it was time for Tookey to move on. According to the Financial Times, some shareholders felt he had fallen into line too easily with Daniels and that Tookey should make way for someone who was not tainted by the acquisition that led to the £21bn bail-out of Lloyds.
According to the FT, one shareholder described Tookey as “well past his sell-by-date” and another said Horta-Osório “would struggle to deliver his new message on recovery to shareholders while Mr Tookey remained finance director”.