Virtuous veterans hard to find in British banking

Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:25pm EST
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By Matt Scuffham

LONDON (Reuters) - Calling all senior, experienced British bankers with a clean charge sheet and political nous. There might be a chairmanship role awaiting.

With three of Britain's four major banks expected to hire new chairmen - and they are all likely to be men - within the next two years, headhunters and industry insiders say there is an acute shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

Perhaps only six to 12 credible figures could fill the posts likely to be on offer at Lloyds (LLOY.L: Quote), Barclays (BARC.L: Quote) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: Quote), making it tough to lure the right person to positions which are crucial not just to the banks themselves but the economy as a whole.

Lloyds is on the verge of appointing Norman Blackwell, chairman of its Scottish Widows insurance arm, as its new chairman, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

An ex management consultant with banking experience, political contacts and free of scandal, Blackwell fits the bill.

But for the other banks, finding a virtuous industry veteran is likely to prove difficult, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis.

"There are probably less than a dozen individuals globally that have the right experience to do it," John McFarlane, 66, chairman of insurer Aviva (AV.L: Quote), told Reuters. "I do think that a chairman of a bank should ideally have relevant banking experience because of the complexity involved."

McFarlane has been linked to the chairmanship of RBS, where he was an independent director until 2012. But the former banker said he was not interested.   Continued...

A sign for Bank Street and high rise offices are pictured in the financial district Canary Wharf in London in this October 21, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Luke Macgregor/Files