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Royal Bank of Scotland picks new head

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State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday said it had appointed New Zealander Ross McEwan, its head of retail, to be the new chief executive, as the lender also announced a return to profit.AFP/File

State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland promoted New Zealander Ross McEwan, its head of retail business, to be the new chief executive on Friday when it also announced a return to profit.

RBS, 81-percent owned by the British taxpayer, said that McEwan would take charge from October, replacing Stephen Hester who recently announced he would step down before the bank returned to the private sector.

"The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc announces today that Ross McEwan has been appointed as a director and group chief executive with effect from 1 October 2013," the Edinburgh-based bank said in a statement.

McEwan, 56, will receive an annual salary of ??1.0 million ($1.5 million, 1.14 million euros). He will receive also a cash allowance in lieu of a pension totalling 35 percent of his salary.

While he is eligible to receive a long-term incentive award in 2014, McEwan does not wish to be considered for an annual bonus in 2014 or for the remainder of 2013, the statement said.

RBS announced that it had posted a net profit of ??535 million in the six months to the end of June compared with a loss after tax of ??2.0 billion in the first half of 2012.

"Five years on from its rescue, RBS is now a safe and strong bank -- our focus is now on building a really good bank for our customers and shareholders, returning the bank to private ownership, and playing our full part in supporting the UK economy," RBS chairman Philip Hampton said on Friday.

"The board and I very much look forward to the fresh perspective Ross will bring to achieving these goals. I would like to thank Stephen Hester for his dedication to RBS and congratulate him on his success in turning this bank around," Hampton added.

McEwan, who joined RBS as head of its retail banking operations only last September, said it was "a privilege to lead a bank that matters to so many".

He added: "We have a lot of work ahead of us and I'm very much looking forward to getting started."

Currrent RBS chief executive Hester surprised markets in June by announcing that he was stepping down later this year.

His departure, reportedly at the request of Britain's coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron, has sparked questions about the strategy for the state-rescued bank.

Analysts believe that British finance minister George Osborne wanted a new face to help guide Royal Bank of Scotland's return to private ownership, which is not expected until late 2014 at the earliest.

RBS was rescued with ??45.5 billion of British taxpayer cash at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis under the then-Labour government, making it the world's biggest-ever banking bailout.

Hester has earned the respect of the business community by axing 41,000 jobs, selling non-core assets and transforming the bank's balance sheet.

At the same time, unions have been scathing of his management, especially as the massive jobs cull occurred alongside Hester earning millions of pounds in salary and bonuses during his five years in charge.

"RBS's journey from 'bust bank' to 'normal bank' is largely done," Hester said in Friday's earnings statement.

"But no small task remains -- to harness the energies and strengths that have driven the bank's recovery, and to take RBS towards the target of being a 'really good bank' for customers, shareholders and society as a whole," he added.