The board of NatWest Group is preparing to name Paul Thwaite as its next permanent chief executive as the government readies a mass-market share offering that will slash the taxpayer’s stake in the bank.
Sky News has learnt that the lender’s directors will discuss on Thursday proposals to announce Mr Thwaite, its interim boss, as the successor to Dame Alison Rose alongside its annual results on Friday morning.
Sources cautioned on Wednesday that a final decision had yet to be taken and that other candidates had also been discussed by NatWest’s board as part of the appointment process.
Mr Thwaite, however, is regarded as having done a good job since taking over from Dame Alison in tumultuous circumstances amid the debanking row sparked by the closure of Nigel Farage’s Coutts account last summer.
He was appointed as interim chief for a 12-month period from July, having run its commercial banking arm since 2019.
NatWest is expected to report its most profitable year since its bailout in 2008 on Friday, with banks having been buoyed by higher interest rates.
Nevertheless, the lender is expected to pay a slightly lower bonus pool of about £350m for 2023.
The Treasury is likely to have been consulted on the decision of NatWest’s board by virtue of the government’s 35% stake in the bank.
Sky News revealed earlier this year that Heidrick & Struggles has been enlisted by the state-backed bank’s board to assist with the appointment process.
City sources said that Heidrick’s appointment had been made with the support of Rick Haythornthwaite, NatWest’s chairman-designate, who joined the board last month and takes over from Sir Howard Davies in April.
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The search for a permanent successor to Dame Alison, who left last summer amid the furore created by her inaccurate briefing to a BBC journalist about former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s finances, has also included external candidates.
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has outlined plans to offer a significant chunk of the government’s remaining 36% stake in NatWest to ordinary investors through a retail offer, with the general election timing and the bank’s financial calendar meaning that a mid-year sale is likely to be the only viable window to do so.
Having a new chief executive in place is viewed as being essential for such a sale to happen – a view reiterated publicly by UK Government Investments, the agency which manages the stake, last week.
The government has been steadily reducing its holding in recent years, having at one stage owned more than 80% of what was then called Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
British taxpayers injected £45.5bn into RBS in 2008 to prevent a collapse which would have had dramatic consequences for the wider global banking system.
NatWest declined to comment.