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RBS’s Guy Whittaker walks amid regulator probe

Guy Whittaker

Royal Bank of Scotland finance director Guy Whittaker’s
resignation from the post marks the departure of the last Goodwin-era old guard
to leave the banking group and comes just days before reports that the financial
regulator is looking into the conduct of board members over last year’s events.

Whittaker announced his intention to leave the group on 5 May, three days
before it released its interim results revealing losses of £857m after tax for
the first quarter of 2009. He will leave by October to allow for the appointment
of a successor and a handover period.

Chief executive Stephen Hester said he accepted the parting “with sadness”
and confirmed that Whittaker had agreed to serve a full transition period. “Guy
has held one of the most demanding roles at RBS… he has given everything to
assist our creation of a new direction for RBS and give it the best chance of
success,” he added.

Alongside Gordon Pell, deputy CEO and head of UK retail, wealth and the
Ulster Bank, who retires in 2010, Whittaker’s departure brings the Goodwin era
to a close.

Likely to be remembered most keenly for presiding over RBS’s ill-fated
acquisition of ABN Amro, Whittaker’s performance as RBS FD may yet come under
scrutiny.

Just over a week after he announced his resignation, there were reports that
the Financial Services Authority had asked auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers to
look into the conduct of RBS’s board during its £12bn rights issue last spring.
It is claimed the regulator wants to know if board members kept the markets
properly informed of the financial position of the group and wants more
information on their attitude to risk. The FSA declined to confirm or deny that
it is taking this action.

RBS will not comment on potential successors to Whittaker, but is likely to
hire from the outside, given its focus on bringing in new blood and restoring
trust in the board (Princeton graduate and ANZ Australia CEO, Brian Hartzer,
recently took on Pell’s divisional roles and his spot on the executive
committee). The candidate will also be subject to approval by the FSA and UK
Financial Investments, the body that controls the government’s stakes in banks.

Whittaker was hired by Goodwin in February 2006 amid calls for RBS to broaden
its executive base from Scottish grandees at a time when the group was rapidly
expanding its operations in international markets and had a considerable chunk
of business in the US. Whittaker is English-born, but spent much of his 25-year
career in New York with Citigroup where he latterly served as group treasurer
under CFO Sallie Krawcheck.

Read about RBS’s new head of risk, Abbey CFO Nathan Bostock, by clicking
here.

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