The "best and the brightest" students are being put off a career in banking because of the stigma attached to the industry, the boss of Lloyds Banking Group haswarned.
As the bailed out bank announced that its chairman Sir Win Bischoff was intending to retire next year, António Horta-Osório told an audience of students about his concerns for an industry hit by the Libor scandal and mis-selling of financial products.
Citing a YouGov survey showing a quarter of students saying they would be too embarrassed to tell friends if they were going to work in a bank and only 2% considering a banking career, Horta-Osório said: "This is a very worrying result. It's my contention that banking – retail banking particularly – remains one of the most satisfying careers there is, specially for someone that likes strategy, economics and consumer businesses.
"We want the best and the brightest to see banking as a credible career choice. This is vital for the industry's long-term viability."
The Portuguese-born banker said that the "next generation" should regard banking "as an industry that helps to build economic wealth and is playing its part as a useful member of our local communities".
His speech came as the bank began a search for a new chairman to replace Bischoff – who intends to step down as chairman before next year's annual general meeting. Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, has been linked with the role.
Bischoff said the bank was "on track" for recovery as speculation began about his replacement at the helm of the bank and the government's plans to sell off its 39% stake.
The septuagenarian's departure from a role he took on in September in 2009 has been the subject of speculation for many months although he now looks likely to leave before the sale of the taxpayer's stake, bought for around £20bn.
"Lloyds Banking Group has, over the past four years, made significant progress in its goal to become a strong, efficient, UK-focused retail and commercial bank. Whilst clearly some challenges remain, the performance of the group is well on track. Indeed, in many areas, it is ahead of plan. This gives me every confidence in the future success of the group and it is therefore a good time to start the search for my successor," Bischoff said.
Anthony Watson, the former fund manager and senior independent director, will lead the search for the new chairman, who will need to give investors enough confidence in the bank to buy shares during any stock market flotation.
In a surprise move in March, the government signalled its determination to privatise Lloyds by linking a bonus for Horta-Osório to selling off a stake in the bank at a price above 61p. This is considerably lower than the 73p that the City had previously assumed would be the price targeted by the government.
Bischoff was a key figure at the investment bank Schroders when it was sold to the US bank Citigroup in 2000. He ended up running the entire bank in the fallout of the 2007 credit crunch but left Citi in 2009 after it reported a $18.5bn (£12bn) loss.
He was named chairman of Lloyds after the HBOS rescue, which led to the departure of Sir Victor Blank, who had chaired Lloyds during the 2008 crisis. In 2001, Bischoff replaced the Lloyds chief executive, Eric Daniels, with Horta-Osório.
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