1. Foster a good working relationship with the chancellor
McEwan's predecessor Stephen Hester had a tetchy relationship with George Osborne, and the new boss of Royal Bank of Scotland needs to be able to work with the chancellor. In a bank where 81% of the shares are owned by the government – albeit through a hands-off body UK Financial Investments – an ability to communicate frankly, even if not to always agree, with the key ministers in the Treasury will prove crucial.
2. The bad and good bank split
Osborne has commissioned investment bank Rothschild to consider whether up to £120bn of loans should be spun into a "bad" bank, leaving a good bank that could be easily privatised. McEwan takes over on 1 October – just as the Rothschild project is due to be completed – but will need to tread a fine line.
The non-government shareholders – that is the City investors and private investors who own 19% of the shares – will be required to vote on any split should the government decide it is an idea worth pursuing. McEwan may need to decide whether to promote such an idea, or reject such a break up. His ultimate goal is to see the bank through to privatisation.
3. Get the share price up.
At the time of the 2008 bailout the average price the government paid for its 81% stake was 502p. They are currently changing hands at 317p. The shares won't rise until the market knows whether the good/bad split is going to happen and until RBS starts to make sustainable profits. Hester said today that £50bn of profits generated in the past five years had been used to pay for mistakes made by Fred Goodwin's previous regime.
4. Sort out the IT systems
Last year millions of RBS customers were locked out of their accounts for more than a week as a result of a botched software upgrade. There have been further glitches since.
At a presentation in March, McEwan, who joined just after the shambolic episode, said he was shocked at the lack of technology in the bank – pointing to the fact that RBS still used fax machines. He said: "I don't know what it is about you English, Welsh and Scots that you love (paper) so much."
5. Deal with the internal politics
McEwan, the new arrival at RBS having been there just a year, has won the top job over much longer-standing colleagues. He will need to decide who to keep and who to let go – and find someone to run the high street banking business.
6. Handle the fallout from fines and ligitation still to come
The bank has set aside £385m to cover legal costs associated with unspecified regulatory actions. This indicates that following January's £390m Libor rigging fine, further fines are on the way. McEwan must minimise the impact they will have on RBS's already ragged reputation.
7. Be seen as a boring banker
Avoid fast cars, fast friends, hunting gear and other obvious trappings of wealth. By already waiving his 2014 bonus he has signalled a change in the tone of a bank that in the past was plagued by conflict over payments to his predecessor, Hester. McEwan owns a farm in New Zealand – which may just be far enough away not to ruffle feathers.
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image: © Elliot Brown