Royal Bank of Scotland was facing fresh management upheaval on Tuesday night when the bailed-out bank's newly-appointed finance director suddenly quit.
Nathan Bostock, who was only promoted to the top finance position on 1 October, is understood to have quit to become deputy chief executive of the UK arm of Spanish bank Santander. It is a bank he knows well, having left Santander in 2009 to join RBS after its £45bn taxpayer bailout.
His resignation, which was discussed a meeting of the RBS board on Tuesday night, leaves a gap in a key management position and presents a problem for the new chief executive, Ross McEwan, himself only ten weeks into one of the most prominent roles in British banking.
Bostock's arrival at Santander may fuel expectations that the flotation of the UK arm of the Spanish bank is back on the agenda – after being postponed in the aftermath of the banking crisis – and will fuel speculation that he could eventually be a candidate for the top job at the Spanish bank in the UK.
At Santander, Bostock is also expected to take up the position of chief risk officer, as well as being deputy chief executive to Ana Botin.
Santander has previously said it would reconsider the conditions for a flotation of the UK arm in late 2014. Santander was not immediately available to comment.
RBS hastily issued a statement to say that Bostock had "this evening informed the board of his intention to resign from his role as group finance director".
"His formal resignation is expected soon but he will remain in his position to oversee an orderly handover of his responsibilities," RBS said. He is on a 12-month contract.
Bostock and McEwan are the only two executives on the board of RBS, chaired by Sir Philip Hampton, and were working together on a new strategy to focus the 81%-taxpayer-owned bank on high street banking. Bostock, a former head of restructuring at RBS, would also have been playing a key role in creating the mini 'bad bank' inside the bailed-out bank that was ordered by George Osborne.
Bostock's departure comes as RBS faces criticism over IT systems failures that left customers unable to withdraw cash last week for three hours, and allegations about its treatment of small businesses.
McEwan admitted that the bank had failed to invest properly in IT systems for decades after a computer glitch left customers of RBS and its NatWest subsidiary unable to use credit and debit cards on the busiest online shopping day of the year.
McEwan will now be seeking to fill a number of key roles – Bostock's job as finance director, a head of the non-core division, and his own full-time replacement as head of the retail bank from which he was promoted when Stephen Hester was ousted in the summer. McEwan may also take the opportunity to change management in other divisions ahead of his strategic review due in February.
Bostock was part of the team assembled by Hester when he was parachuted into RBS in 2008.
He has quit RBS before. In late 2011 he had been planning to leave to join rival bailed-out bank Lloyds Banking Group but reversed his decision. It was rumoured at the time that he had been enticed to stay at RBS by the promise of a bigger job – he was running risk and restructuring – in the future. He eventually replaced Bruce van Saun as finance director when Van Saun returned to the US at the end of September to run RBS's US operation Citizens and prepare the business for a stock market flotation.
Before joining RBS, Bostock had spent eight years with Abbey National in several roles including chief financial officer and as a board director.
He had previously spent 10 years with RBS in a number of roles, including chief operating officer of treasury and capital markets and group risk director.
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