The state-backed lender today named Ocado chairman Richard (Rick) Haythornthwaite as successor to Sir Howard Davies, subject to regulatory approval.
Mr Haythornthwaite, whose career has included spells as chairman of Mastercard, Centrica, and Network Rail, and as chief executive of Invensys and Blue Circle Group, will take over on April 15, 2024, when Sir Howard will stand down from the board.
Sir Howard first announced his intention to retire as chairman in April, when he explained that he would reach the nine-year limit recommended in the UK Corporate Governance Code in July 2024.
He recently shrugged off calls for him to step down immediately during the Nigel Farage “debanking” scandal that led to Dame Alison Rose being forced to quit as chief executive of the bank in July.
The episode, which centred on Farage’s accounts with Coutts, NatWest’s private bank, also led to the resignation of Coutts’ boss Peter Flavel. Dame Alison has been replaced by Paul Thwaite on an interim basis.
Mark Seligman, senior independent director of NatWest, said: “At our AGM in April 2023 we announced that we would be commencing the search for Howard’s successor. Today’s announcement follows a rigorous process which I have led along with the senior independent directors from our ring-fenced bank. After careful consideration of a number of high-quality candidates, the board has unanimously chosen Rick as our new chair.
“Rick is a highly experienced chair who combines a successful commercial career with a deep knowledge of financial services markets and technology, as well as a strong track record of delivery at significant customer-facing organisations.”
Sir Howard said: “I am very pleased by the choice the board has made and am confident that Rick’s experience and range of skills will complement and further strengthen the NatWest board in the years to come. I look forward to working closely with him to ensure a smooth handover next year.”
As well as currently chairing the board of Ocado, Mr Haythornthwaite is a non-executive director of New York-listed Globant S.A. He also has a number of private company directorships which include chairing the AA, QiO Technologies and Railsr, alongside a role as an advisory partner at investment bank Moelis & Co.
Before joining Natwest, he will step down as a director of Globant S.A. and from his private company directorships apart from at the AA, where he will change role to become a non-executive director.
Mr Haythornthwaite said: “It is a privilege to assume the role of NatWest group chair. I am inheriting a very different NatWest compared to my predecessor; one that is more customer focused, financially resilient and well positioned to maintain its recent strong performance.
“I look forward to working with the board to build on the exceptional progress made, so we can continue to support the UK economy and deliver for our customers and stakeholders.”
NatWest announced last month that Dame Alison would receive a pay-off worth £2.43 million following her departure as chief executive. NatWest has commissioned law firm Traves Smith to carry out an independent review into the Farage affair.
Speaking to reporters last month, as the bank reported an operating profit before tax of nearly £3.6 billion for the first half, Sir Howard said that he had no plans to resign immediately. He said: “Like any chairman, I serve at the shareholders’ behest, but my intention is to continue to lead the board and ensure the bank remains sound, stable, and able to support our 19 million customers.”
The UK Government holds a 38.69% in the bank, a legacy of its £45.5bn bailout during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.